Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Romans 15:9-13

9.and for the Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy ; as it is written, "THEREFORE I WILL GIVE PRAISE TO YOU AMONG THE GENTILES, AND I WILL SING TO YOUR NAME."
13.Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Lord, I praise You for your mercy in providing salvation for the Gentiles. Every time I read about the Gentiles in Scripture, I think, “I am one of them.” I am a Gentile. I am not of God’s chosen nation, Israel. I am not born of the line of Abraham. I am not one of the Jews who were the first to receive Jesus’ message of salvation. But God, by His great mercy and grace, has made His gift of salvation available also to the Gentiles. He sent Paul to preach to the Gentiles. Although we are not His chosen people like the nation of Israel, He has chosen us to glorify Him by receiving His salvation.

We can praise God because He has not passed us by. He has stopped, taken notice of us, and chosen us for salvation. We can sing to His name and rejoice with great joy because of the goodness of God. He was not obligated to take us under His wing, but by His grace He made Himself our king. He is our hope- we do not have to perish but we can be saved.

I love the three words describing the Christian life in verse 13: hope, joy, and peace. What a beautiful life God has designed for those who believe in Him! It comforts me to think that hope, joy, and peace are what God desires for me when I abide in Him. I want that for my life, and I believe it is the kind of life that will attract non-believers to You. God, may my life reflect the hope, joy, and peace that You designed. I praise You for Your lovingkindness to me.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Romans 9:19-21

19.You will say to me then, "Why does He still find fault ? For who resists His will ?"
20.On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God ? The thing molded will not say to the molder, "Why did you make me like this," will it?
21.Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use ?

I feel I must be very careful with chapter 9 of Romans. There are some really difficult concepts about God in this passage. Does God really harden people’s hearts? Did He really hate Esau before he had even been born and had a chance to do anything? Does He create people for destruction? This chapter brings up a lot of questions for me. One of the questions that seems most pertinent to my life right now come from verses 19-21. When I read this and picture the potter and the clay, I have to wonder if Paul is being sarcastic. Of course a clay pot is not going to ask its molder why he made it like he did. But I would guess that just about every human being is going to ask God, “Why did You make me like this?” Why did You make me with this particular flaw? Why did you make me with this desire when it seems that You don’t want to fulfill it? Why didn’t You give me such-and-such quality? I certainly ask these questions. Would Paul be astonished at me?

I know that some of the source of these questions is the habit of comparison and the lack of contentment. I believe that part of the lesson Paul is teaching through this chapter is that we need to learn to trust God. His ways are not always my ways, and He may not always make sense to me. I may not always understand why He made me like He did. But God is always good, and His ways are always good. The way He made me is good. I need to learn to trust in Him. I am not a perfect vessel, but nevertheless, He knows best.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Romans 5:8-11

8.But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
9.Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.
10.For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
11.And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

This passage amazes me. Romans 5:8 has got to be the most incredible statement I have ever read. “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” While we were yet sinners- enemies of God, going our own disgusting way, with no thought of love for God. But while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. We had not done anything minutely worthy of His compassion, but God loved us so much that God in Christ died for us. “God demonstrates” communicates such a depth of meaning to me. God did not just feel or say, He acted out His love in the most passionate manner possible. He died for us.

This passage builds on the fact that Christ died for us while we were still sinners. By shedding His blood, He justified us. He took on our sin, and clothed us in His righteousness. Now then, because He justified us, we no longer have to fear the wrath of God. I think of an estranged father and child. The father has been angry with the child, but they become reconciled and their loving relationship is restored. Christ reconciled us to God. If God was passionate enough to reconcile us to Himself by His death while we were still sinners, we can have confidence that He will save us by His life. If God died for us while seeing our filthiness, we can be even more confident that He will save us now that He sees us as righteous!

And above all, now that we have been reconciled to God, we can have the joy of celebrating and adoring God through our Lord Jesus Christ because of this amazing work He has done for us.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Romans 4:16-21

16.For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all,
17.(as it is written, "A FATHER OF MANY NATIONS HAVE I MADE YOU") in the presence of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist.
18.In hope against hope he believed, so that he might become a father of many nations according to that which had been spoken, "SO SHALL YOUR DESCENDANTS BE."
19.Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah's womb ;
20.yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God,
21.and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform.

I like it when I find phrases in the Bible that seems to refer to me specifically. I think the phrase in 4:16 that says “those who are of the faith of Abraham” refers to me. That is, me and all those like me who have received the grace of God to believe Him for salvation. This verse is saying that I am included in God’s plan of salvation. I am a spiritual child of Abraham! Although I am not of Israel, God’s special chosen nation, He has made me a descendant of Abraham. God gave Abraham the great promise of life in Him through faith, and by grace He gives life to those who believe Him like Abraham did. God “calls into being that which did not exist”- our faith, and thereby our relationship to Abraham and to God.

Abraham’s example of faith is amazing. I am not sure I could have believed like He did. With no prior knowledge of God (such as we have in the Scriptures and in our daily lives), Abraham believed God enough to leave everything he knew for an unknown land. He believed that God would give him a son and make him the father of many nations even though he was an old man. God did give Abraham a son, which is all to His glory since Abraham and Sarah were too old to bear children. God also made Abraham the father of many nations, both physical and spiritually descended.

As a spiritual descendant of Abraham, I hope that my faith will grow to be like his. I want to hope against hope even when circumstances seem impossible. I want to grow strong in faith and give glory to God because He does fulfill His promises.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Philippians 2:1-5

1.Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion,
2.make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.
3.Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves ;
4.do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
5.Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,

I must confess that as I read Philippians this morning, I was feeling a little cynical and selfish. When I read 1:29-30, I was thinking something like, “Right. It’s been granted to us to suffer- like suffering is a gift or something!” And as I read on, my attitude wasn’t much better. Do nothing from selfishness? Consider others better than myself? Don’t look out for my own personal interests? Sheesh, what good did that ever do me?

And then in the following verses, I read about our great example, Jesus Christ. He suffered complete humiliation and gave up every ounce of self interest…for me. Amazing. After this check to my attitude, I looked back over verses 1-5 again.

I was completely wrong to think that putting others first never did me any good. In fact, it’s quite puzzling that we Christians can experience Christ’s love for us and yet forget that He will take care of us. I know I have experienced God’s care for me when I am focusing on taking care of others. There is true joy in considering others as more important than yourself.

And although it is natural to cringe away from suffering, it has value for Christians. My mom recently told me that as she has grown older, she realized she would not trade her suffering for anything because of how close it brought her to Christ. I think the Bible also teaches us that when we suffer, we share in the experience of Christ. Christ was perfect in His experience of suffering and we will be imperfect, but to be able to draw close to Him and identify with Him, even in suffering, is sweet indeed.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Ephesians 4:14-16

14.As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming ;
15.but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ,
16.from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

I like this passage because it is talks about how the Christian belongs to a family, and it continues the theme of the greatness of the love of Christ. It also has to do with how we live our lives as Christians.

There is a beautiful progression in these verses. At first, Paul describes Christians as children, tossed about and blown every which way by differing thoughts and arguments over doctrine and deceptions. But, by the powerful love of Christ, we can move on from confusion to certainty. As we speak the truth of Christ in the love of Christ, we will grow together in unity and mature in ministry. And we are always growing into Christ, our head. Everything we need for life in the body is found in Christ. He is the One who is full of grace and truth. He is the One who enables us to speak the truth in love. He is the One who supplies the body and causes its growth in love.

The love of Christ is the foundation for the change in nature we experience as Christians. In Ephesians 4:1-13, just before this passage, Paul is describing the characteristics and gifts of the Christian. Just after this passage, Paul says that because we are no longer children and we are being built up as one body in the love of Christ, we should no longer live our lives according to the old nature.

Ephesians 3:17-19

17.so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith ; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love,
18.may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,
19.and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

At the church I went to in high school, this prayer of Paul’s was a very special passage. I remember standing and reading it together as a congregation and reflecting on the greatness of our God.

I am in awe of the picture Paul presents here of the love of Christ. He says we are rooted and grounded in the love of Christ. This sounds like a starting point. But Paul wants us not only to know that we are rooted, but to go on to discover the vast greatness of the love of Christ. The expressions he uses actually remind me of a plant. A seed is planted and it develops roots and grows. It is rooted and grounded in love. But this is not all- the plant grows. It has breadth, length, height, and depth. For breadth I imagine the magnificent oak tree with huge branches that spread out in every direction. It offers shelter beneath its branches, and cool shade from the heat of the sun. For length, I imagine the vine that twines and climbs, putting out beautiful flowers and offering delicious fruit. For height, I imagine the awesome redwoods, reaching higher than it seems possible. And for depth, I envision the massive and deep root systems that give strength and nourishment to the tree. The love of Christ is all of this to us and more; much more than I can imagine!

Not only does Christ plant us and grow us in His love, He gives us the life-long adventure of comprehending this love which goes beyond knowledge. This is the love that is at the root of everything we pursue- the only love that can fill us up to “all the fullness of God.”

When I think of this love, it reminds me of what a wonderful gift we have to share with each other, with the world, and especially with those who do not know Christ. I pray that this love is what they would see when the look at me.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Jonah 1:6, 9,14-16

6.So the captain approached him and said, "How is it that you are sleeping ? Get up, call on your god. Perhaps your god will be concerned about us so that we will not perish."
9.He said to them, "I am a Hebrew, and I fear the LORD God of heaven who made the sea and the dry land."
14.Then they called on the LORD and said, "We earnestly pray, O LORD, do not let us perish on account of this man's life and do not put innocent blood on us; for You, O LORD, have done as You have pleased."
15.So they picked up Jonah, threw him into the sea, and the sea stopped its raging.
16.Then the men feared the LORD greatly, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows.

The story of Jonah is a familiar one; perhaps one of the first Bible stories we learn as children. What I am discovering as I continue to learn is that those Bible stories we learned when we were small can act as the framework for so much more! God continues to reveal more and more of His truth to me through those same stories. I have learned so much more about the story of Jonah since those kindergarten days.

This semester, one of the new things I learned about in Jonah is the story of the sailors. Before I had always considered them as peripheral characters who just assisted in the story by throwing Jonah overboard. But this semester I learned that they are some of the most admirable characters in the book! While Jonah was running away from God, they were moving toward God. I love that in 1:6, before they know who Yahweh is, the sailors say, "perhaps your God will be concerned about us so we will not perish." Ironically, that is an exact description of God's character and actions. He cares about people- He loves them with a lovingkindness that goes beyond description. All people are going to perish without God, but He has provided a way of escape through Jesus Christ.

As the story goes on, Jonah introduces the sailors to Yahweh (1:9). The sailors recognize who He is, believe in Him, obey Him, and then dedicate their lives to Him! And God graciously provides salvation for them (from the storm, and eternally). I think it is amazing that the sailors believed despite Jonah's negative example. They even recognized God's sovereignty when Jonah did not (1:14). They obeyed God even though they did not understand why He wanted them to throw Jonah overboard (1:15). And because of the salvation they received, they revered the Lord and offered sacrifices and vows to Him (1:16). The sailors are truly admirable characters in the story of Jonah.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Psalm 146:5-10

5.How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, Whose hope is in the LORD his God,
6.Who made heaven and earth, The sea and all that is in them; Who keeps faith forever ;
7.Who executes justice for the oppressed ; Who gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets the prisoners free.
8.The LORD opens the eyes of the blind ; The LORD raises up those who are bowed down ; The LORD loves the righteous ;
9.The LORD protects the strangers ; He supports the fatherless and the widow, But He thwarts the way of the wicked.
10.The LORD will reign forever, Your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the LORD !

A good friend of mine encouraged me recently to read through the psalms and look for the promises in them. She said that in times of distress, she goes back to the promises of God that she finds in the psalms for comfort. As I read Psalm 146, I didn’t exactly find promises, but I did find a passage rich with the truths of who God is. I suppose these are promises of a sort, because God never changes. We can always count on Him to think, feel, be and act according to His character. We are blessed if Yahweh is our help and hope, because of who He is.

Yahweh is the creator. He made everything by His strength and wisdom. He keeps faith forever. He does not go back on His word or forsake those He has covenanted with, even when they forsake Him. The Lord is just; He does not overlook the oppressed although the world may. He is a provider. He “gives food to the hungry.” I think this is true both physically and spiritually. We should remember that if we have something to eat, it is because God provides. And who else can feed us spiritually? God is a redeemer- He sets prisoners free from their captivity to sin. Yahweh opens the eyes of the blind. I think of the blind men that Jesus miraculously healed. I am also reminded of myself and other Christians when God opens our eyes to truths about Him we never saw before. The Lord raises up those who are bowed down. This reminds me of Psalm 113. We are burdened with needs and sins, but God comes and raises us up. God loves the righteous- first He makes us righteous by His Son, and then He loves us! He protects strangers and supports widows and orphans. He thwarts the ways of the wicked. He will reign forever!

What a good God we have! Praise the Lord!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Psalm 139:7-12

7.Where can I go from Your Spirit ? Or where can I flee from Your presence ?
8.If I ascend to heaven, You are there ; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
9.If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
10.Even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
11.If I say, "Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, And the light around me will be night,"
12.Even the darkness is not dark to You, And the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You.

Whenever I read this familiar psalm, I always sing verses 7-10. Someone has set these exact words to a melody, which I learned in college and remember every time I read Psalm 139. These words surely are precious to every believer. We are never alone. Once we become a member of God’s family by believing in Jesus, He never leaves us. In fact, this is one of the names of Christ: Immanuel, which means God with us (Matthew 1:23). Psalm 139 expresses this truth beautifully. There is nowhere we can go where God does not go with us. In fact, not only does He stay with us, He guides us no matter where we are. David says, “Even in the remotest part of the sea Your hand will lead me.” God will take hold of us. He truly loves us with a love greater than any human being can ever give.


Verse 11 and 12 seem to speak special hope to those who are going through exceptionally dark and difficult circumstances. David speaks of an overwhelming darkness when event the light seems like night. These phrases make me think of the family who has lost their father to cancer, the person submerged in depression, or the patient in the hospital suffering with chronic pain. God does not change in these circumstances. He overcomes them. The darkness is not dark to Him, “and the night is as bright as the day.” He gives us hope in the hardest circumstances of life by His continued presences with us and His unique ability to redeem darkness for light.

Reading this passage reminded me of one of my most favourite books, The Horse and His Boy by C. S. Lewis. Toward the end of the story, the main character Shasta is on a mission but becomes lost in the woods. Most unfortunately for him, he is lost in the pitch black middle of the night in woods he has never been in before. As he wanders hopelessly in the dark, Aslan (the character who represents God) comes alongside him. Although Shasta is terrified, Aslan walks beside him for the entire night. Eventually, Aslan becomes light- it is still pitch black, but light emanates from Aslan. In the end, when it is daylight again, Shasta can see that Aslan led him safely through the danger of the night to just the place he needed to be.  (You'll have to read the book to get the full effect of the story.)  This is a beautiful picture of what our God does for us as well.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Psalm 130:5-8

5.I wait for the LORD, my soul does wait, And in His word do I hope.
6.My soul waits for the Lord More than the watchmen for the morning ; Indeed, more than the watchmen for the morning.
7.O Israel, hope in the LORD ; For with the LORD there is lovingkindness, And with Him is abundant redemption.
8.And He will redeem Israel From all his iniquities.

This is a psalm of hope. The psalmist is crying to God out of the depths of some bad experience. But he does not cry out with bitterness, he cries out with hope. The psalmist has hope because of who God is.

He says “my soul waits for the Lord.” This reflects both truth and passion. He waits for the Lord with patient hope and expectation because he loves and desires Yahweh. The psalmist knows that his deep desires in life are rooted in his desire for God. I think often we get caught up in earthly desires because of our innate need for God. At our core, we need God to fill us up and meet our needs. But many times we do not realize that we need God because we think our desires can be fulfilled other things (spouse, work, money, pleasure, etc.). But the psalmist knows the truth- only God can fulfill his deepest longings. And so he can say that his soul waits for the Lord more than the watchmen wait for the morning.

The last two verse of this Psalm are filled with such a beautiful hope. This is the proof that only God can satisfy our desires: with the Lord there is lovingkindness and abundant redemption. God is the only one who loves us at all times, who even loved us while we were His enemies. God is the only one who can and will redeem us. With Him there is abundant redemption, and He will redeem us from all our sins if we will believe in Him. Thus God is the only One who can provide the reconciliation that we so desperately need.

Psalm 119:129-133

129.Your testimonies are wonderful ; Therefore my soul observes them.
130.The unfolding of Your words gives light ; It gives understanding to the simple.
131.I opened my mouth wide and panted, For I longed for Your commandments.
132.Turn to me and be gracious to me, After Your manner with those who love Your name.
133.Establish my footsteps in Your word, And do not let any iniquity have dominion over me.

As I read Psalm 119, I was moved by the passion of the writer for the Word of God. He describes God’s Word as wonderful, righteous, joyous, and faithful, to name a few. He longs for the Word, he desires it, he rejoices because of it, he delights in it, he regards it as precious, he says the Word will revive him. God’s Word was the source of life for this writer.

One of the concepts I have been learning this semester is about the grace of God in giving the law to the Israelites. Christians today tend to look at the Law as something that was bad and kept people in bondage, not to mention that it has passed away and no longer matters today. But this psalmist wrote the masterpiece of Psalm 119 all about the law of Yahweh! He did not have the Gospels of Jesus Christ or the epistles of Paul. He had only the law, and he loved it passionately.

Verses 129-133 show how the psalmist saw God’s grace in His law. The writer says God’s testimonies are wonderful! The unfolding of God’s words gives light! What a beautiful metaphor- God’s people would otherwise be lost in darkness, but His words give light and point out the way of life. He gives understanding to the simple through His words. In verse 131, the psalmist says he is thirsty for God’s commandments. I think the following verses explain why. God shows His grace to those who love Him through His commandments. By His Word He establishes their footsteps and prevents sin from having dominion over them. This is God’s manner with those who love His name: “Grace, always grace!” (quote from Dr. Ron Allen)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Psalm 113:5-9

5.Who is like the LORD our God, Who is enthroned on high,
6.Who humbles Himself to behold The things that are in heaven and in the earth ?
7.He raises the poor from the dust And lifts the needy from the ash heap,
8.To make them sit with princes, With the princes of His people.
9.He makes the barren woman abide in the house As a joyful mother of children. Praise the LORD !

I’ve been struggling lately with contentment. Specifically, my struggle has been between my desires and God’s will. If I have desires that God has not fulfilled, what do I do with that? Do I give up my desires? Do I continue to hold onto my desires, knowing that there is a possibility they will never be fulfilled? Both options sound bad; and, if I’m honest, I’m not willing to do either one.

So I was expressing these thoughts to my best girlfriends last night (what a special gift God gives us in good friends!). Their thoughts on the matter where that neither option is quite right. They said they see me as having a desire and a gift, and both are from God. They feel confident that God will fulfill this desire. What I really like is that they encouraged me to trust God. He has promised to satisfy the desires of my heart, and God is trustworthy to fulfill His promises.

I can see this happening in Psalm 113. God, in His great love, looks down on a poor and needy man and a barren woman. He knows their needs, He knows their desires, and He knows how He has made them. And even though for a time they had to live on an ash heap, or in a state of silence and sadness without children, God saw them. He not only saw, He fulfilled all their needs and desires. Best of all, God has met our greatest need and desire by giving us Himself. He is trustworthy and worthy of praise.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Psalm 102:18-22

18.This will be written for the generation to come, That a people yet to be created may praise the LORD.
19.For He looked down from His holy height ; From heaven the LORD gazed upon the earth,
20.To hear the groaning of the prisoner, To set free those who were doomed to death,
21.That men may tell of the name of the LORD in Zion And His praise in Jerusalem,
22.When the peoples are gathered together, And the kingdoms, to serve the LORD.

I like the picture created by this passage, as well as the future hope it offers. Verse 18 introduces this vision of what God does and how men respond. I like to think that “the generation to come” and “a people yet to be created” means me! At least it includes me and my generation. This message is for us, today. We were designed to praise the Lord.

This is the picture I see in the passage. God, who is precious, awesome, and perfect in goodness is in His perfect and glorious Heaven. Everything is good and wonderful there. Though He is not in need, God decides to look down upon the earth. He looks and sees the terrible conditions men are living in- the conditions of the Fall. He hears the prisoner groaning. He sees that all men are doomed to death. And though man created this mess and cannot do anything to reconcile himself to God, God steps in. He acts in love to set us free from death.

Our response should be praise. We should tell the name of the Lord and what He has done for us!

Verse 22 tells of our future hope- the kingdom of God. We will praise Him when all the peoples and nations are gathered together to serve God. We will praise Him because He made it possible for us to be a part of His kingdom. Then we will see, know, and experience for ourselves the life He intended for us.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Psalm 94:17-19

17.If the LORD had not been my help, My soul would soon have dwelt in the abode of silence.
18.If I should say, "My foot has slipped," Your lovingkindness, O LORD, will hold me up.
19.When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul.

When I read verse 18 of Psalm 94, it reminded me of a recent conversation with a good friend of mine. As we updated each other on what has been going on in our lives, she told me that she has been struggling lately because her parents say they are no longer Christians. They believe in a god…of some kind…but no longer believe in Christ. Now these are conservative, good people who raised their children to love Jesus, so this news was quite a shock to me. It also makes my theology class discussions about eternal security seem terribly relevant.

These verses comfort me as I think about these people who have essentially turned their backs on Christ. They are also relevant to my life, and, I would think, the life of every believer at times. My foot may slip, death may come near, and my anxious thoughts will undoubtedly multiply. I think every believer experiences this. But the beauty and comfort of these verses is that God remains. He is my help, His lovingkindness holds me up, and His consolations delight my soul. He is faithful. He does not let go. These verses remind me of the rich contrast in Ephesians 2:4, “BUT GOD.” We are weak and fallen, but He is rich in mercy and great in love.

So I have confidence that God is holding on to my friend’s parents and that He will remain faithful to them. I pray that they will not wander long so they will not miss much of the sweet fellowship with Jesus, the only consolation which can delight their souls.

Psalm 81:8-13

8."Hear, O My people, and I will admonish you; O Israel, if you would listen to Me!
9."Let there be no strange god among you; Nor shall you worship any foreign god.
10."I, the LORD, am your God, Who brought you up from the land of Egypt ; Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.
11."But My people did not listen to My voice, And Israel did not obey Me.
12."So I gave them over to the stubbornness of their heart, To walk in their own devices.
13."Oh that My people would listen to Me, That Israel would walk in My ways !

During my time at DTS I have had the opportunity to take Old Testament history I and II, and I have also attended Walk Thru the Bible for both the Old and New Testaments. Going through this process has given me a much better understanding of the “big picture” or whole story of the Bible. I think I am much better able to understand Psalm 81 because of this. I know what the writer is talking about when he mentions certain historical events, and I can understand the emotions of the psalm based on what God was doing through the whole Old Testament.

I love the emotions and concepts expressed in the second part of this psalm. In verses 8-13, God expresses His longing for His people. God has a desire for His people that we could compare to a husband’s desire for his wife. Just as a husband should be a wife’s only lover, Yahweh desires that He be the one and only God of His people (vs 9). God loves His people so much that He delivered them from oppression (vs 10). He knows that His people can only be satisfied by Him, and He is ready and willing to do it. Verse 10 says, “Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.” I love that line. God cares for His people. He will sustain them, if only they will open their mouth! In this context, God wants His people to walk in His ways so they can be with Him and He can fill them (vs 13). I also love the emotion that verse 13 communicates. It is like the cry of God showing His passion for His people.

Throughout history, God calls His people to satisfaction in Him.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Psalm 73:21-28

21.When my heart was embittered And I was pierced within,
22.Then I was senseless and ignorant ; I was like a beast before You.
23.Nevertheless I am continually with You; You have taken hold of my right hand.
24.With Your counsel You will guide me, And afterward receive me to glory.
25.Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.
26.My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
27.For, behold, those who are far from You will perish ; You have destroyed all those who are unfaithful to You.
28.But as for me, the nearness of God is my good ; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, That I may tell of all Your works.

This section of Psalm 73 is like a stab of reality and a beacon of hope put together. The stab of reality is in verse 21-22. I can relate so easily to the writer’s sentiments at this time of my life. My heart does feel embittered, and I feel pierced or wounded. I think Asaph’s picture of what we humans are like when we’re wounded is pretty much right on- we become senseless and ignorant, like a beast. We let our feelings take over and we rage at God. We forget that His way is always best, always good, and always loving. That’s why the contrast in verses 23-28 is so striking and so appropriate.
Asaph turns from his senseless and ignorant feelings to what he knows to be true about God. One of the greatest comforts to me is that God never changes. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Therefore, we can always trust in His steadfast character. I think that when we are troubled by life, perhaps the best thing to do is remember God’s character and tell ourselves of His goodness. This is what Asaph does.
I love verse 23. “Nevertheless I am continually with You,” which is as much to say that God is continually with us. He is faithful. We are continually with Him because He has chosen to be continually with us. I love how the verses 23-24 describe God’s lovingkindness- He takes hold of us, He counsels us, He guides us, and He graciously receives us to glory. Amazing.
Verse 25, 26, and 28 are what I want to develop in my own life. I’m ashamed to admit that my desire for God is mixed with my desire for earthly things. I cannot truly say that I desire nothing on earth but Him. But I believe that He has designed me to be satisfied and filled by Him, so my hope is that as I grow closer to Him, my desire for Him alone will become more pure.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Psalm 56:3-4, 8-13

3.When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You.
4.In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust ; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me?
8.You have taken account of my wanderings ; Put my tears in Your bottle. Are they not in Your book ?
9.Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call ; This I know, that God is for me.
10.In God, whose word I praise, In the LORD, whose word I praise,
11.In God I have put my trust, I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?
12.Your vows are binding upon me, O God ; I will render thank offerings to You.
13.For You have delivered my soul from death, Indeed my feet from stumbling, So that I may walk before God In the light of the living.

 As I read this section of Psalms this morning, this contrast stood out to me: the darkness of the reality of life against the comfort and delight of an intimate relationship with God. The Psalms are so real in their portrayal of how life is and how we as humans feel about life. But the Psalms also paint this picture of an amazing God who cares about our earthly struggles.

Psalm 56 especially reminded me to cling to God when earthly realities seem to overwhelm me. I can cling to God because He is trustworthy. God has given me His word and the opportunity to study it. Through His word He has revealed to me who He is and I have seen that He is trustworthy. He has also given me experiences in my own life that teach me that He is trustworthy. So when earthly circumstances cause me to be afraid, I know I can trust God.

One of the verses I love most is Psalm 56:8. God, the great and almighty God, has taken account of me! He knows me intimately, He knows my ways, and He has even seen and collected every one of my tears! How tender and how kind! I can trust God with my struggles with the assurance that He will redeem them.

Most wonderful of all, I can trust God with my life because He is the one who keeps His covenant of relationship with me and who delivers my soul from death (vs 11-12). I know that I cannot do this, but praise God! He has done it for me. And He has delivered me for a good purpose: “So that I may walk before God in the light of the living.” 

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Psalm 50:7-15

7."Hear, O My people, and I will speak ; O Israel, I will testify against you; I am God, your God.8."I do not reprove you for your sacrifices, And your burnt offerings are continually before Me.
9."I shall take no young bull out of your house Nor male goats out of your folds.
10."For every beast of the forest is Mine, The cattle on a thousand hills.
11."I know every bird of the mountains, And everything that moves in the field is Mine.
12."If I were hungry I would not tell you, For the world is Mine, and all it contains.
13."Shall I eat the flesh of bulls Or drink the blood of male goats ?
14."Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving And pay your vows to the Most High ;
15.Call upon Me in the day of trouble ; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me."

I read Psalm 41-50 today, the day before Easter. With the approach of both Easter and my theology exam on the doctrines of salvation, I have been thinking a lot about the sacrifice Christ made for us on the Cross. This particular section of Psalm 50 gives voice to God’s thoughts about the animal sacrifices Israel had to offer for their sins. He starts with both a judgment and a reassurance. God says He is going to testify against Israel, but in the same verse (7) He reminds them that He is their own God. In verse 8, God says the sacrifices are continual- which means that Israel’s sins are continual, a great grief to God. In verse 9-10, God reminds the Israelites that although He has commanded blood sacrifice, He has also provided the means of sacrifice for them. Every animal that is sacrificed belongs to God. Verses 12-13 particularly stood out to me because of a question I heard recently. Some people are asking, “Is God bloodthirsty?” (because He required the blood sacrifice of animals and of Jesus). But verses 12-13 seem to be sarcastic in tone- as if God, who is greater than the universe, is thirsty for blood! Instead, God asks for our thanks, our allegiance, and our trust to call upon Him in time of trouble (14-15).
These verses remind me of Jesus and the sacrifice He made for us on the Cross. He is our God, and only He could provide the sacrifice we need to be reconciled to God. Only He could atone for all the sins of the world by His blood. And because of His sacrifice, we can thank Him, give Him our allegiance, and trust Him to rescue us out of our sin. Jesus does deserve all the honour I can give Him.