Tag Archives: Bible

Despite it all. . .

However many times I have read this before, I was particularly stirred as I read Psalm 17 last night, especially the last verse; I think it invoked the “floods, fire, famine, rape, and war” motif that my high school World History teacher always used to describe trying times, especially current politics. Far more significantly, the verse provides dimension to the promise God will unfailingly keep.

“As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness;
I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness.”
–Psalm 17:15

(New King James Version (NKJV)
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.)

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A sequel to the Parable of the Trees

I recently published a post titled “Are all of our Presidents going to be brambles,” citing Jotham’s parable in the Book of Judges, about trees who declined to rule over the other trees because they had higher and better callings–all except for the brambles, who had nothing better to do but rule.

Near the end of his reign, David succinctly and beautifully describes who should rule:

The God of Israel said,
The Rock of Israel spoke to me:
‘He who rules over men must be just,
Ruling in the fear of God.
And he shall be like the light of the morning when the sun rises,
A morning without clouds,
Like the tender grass springing out of the earth,
By clear shining after rain.’ — 2 Samuel 23:3-4 

New King James Version (NKJV). Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

“He who rules” to whom David refers in v. 3 is not running in the upcoming Presidential election–nor is anyone  even remotely close.

Sigh.

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Are all of our presidents going to be brambles?

As I was reading Judges last night, I suddenly realized Jotham’s parable of the trees at Chapter 9, vv. 7-15 bears an alarming allusion to our own American political time. Jotham’s insinuation tracks closely a suspicion long harbored by many Americans: the suspicion that those who desire power are those who have nothing better to do with their lives.

7 Now when they told Jotham, he went and stood on top of Mount Gerizim, and lifted his voice and cried out. And he said to them:
“Listen to me, you men of Shechem,
That God may listen to you!

8 “The trees once went forth to anoint a king over them.
And they said to the olive tree,
‘Reign over us!’

9 But the olive tree said to them,
‘Should I cease giving my oil,
With which they honor God and men,
And go to sway over trees?’

10 “Then the trees said to the fig tree,
‘You come and reign over us!’

11 But the fig tree said to them,
‘Should I cease my sweetness and my good fruit,
And go to sway over trees?’

12 “Then the trees said to the vine,
‘You come and reign over us!’

13 But the vine said to them,
‘Should I cease my new wine,
Which cheers both God and men,
And go to sway over trees?’

14 “Then all the trees said to the bramble,
‘You come and reign over us!’

15 And the bramble said to the trees,
‘If in truth you anoint me as king over you,
Then come and take shelter in my shade;
But if not, let fire come out of the bramble
And devour the cedars of Lebanon!’

New King James Version (NKJV). Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

I admit I think the worst: our coming election is going to be a tangle of brambles. But that is not unusual.

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Lord, is it I?

21 Now as they were eating, He said, “Assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.”
22 And they were exceedingly sorrowful, and each of them began to say to Him, “Lord, is it I?”
23 He answered and said, “He who dipped his hand with Me in the dish will betray Me. 24 The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.”
25 Then Judas, who was betraying Him, answered and said, “Rabbi, is it I?” He said to him, “You have said it.”
–Matthew 26:21-25, New King James Version (NKJV)

In light of reading this text for the I-don’t-know-how-many-th time, I thought. . . Lord, is it I? Judas asked the same question, but he calls Jesus “Rabbi,” not “Lord”–and correctly. Jesus was most certainly his Lord; He was Lord of All, but it was not given to Judas to acknowledge Jesus as his Lord. Judas was never of Christ’s true flock.

If the true Apostles could ask their master such a question, they must have known such a thing was possible. Of course it was. And of course it is for me. It isn’t even a matter of conjecture. It’s a matter of fact. I betray my Lord every day. Of course I do; I sin because I am a sinner.

Judas betrayed the Lord, turning Him over to those who crucified Him. Ah, but Christ died for my sins. My sins put Him on that cross as much as Judas’s betrayal.

But Judas and I are not similarly situated. I am a repentant sinner; Judas was not. By God’s gracious mercy, I was blessed with the gift of repentance; Judas was not.

God’s mercy in granting repentance to sinners so that they may repent their sin and be forgiven, is an infinite gift of grace we should truly celebrate. And ideally, it is why we celebrate Christmas.

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Effie has no sense of sin; she lives under the curse of the Fall, because all Creation fell under the curse with original sin. Effie has no guilt and very little accountability. That is probably why she can fall into relaxed sleep, any time, anywhere.

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The most important “That”

This is my comfort in my affliction,
That Thy word has revived me.—Psalm 119:50 (NASB 1977)

I read the “That” in this verse to mean the solid fact of God’s Word reviving a desponding person—whether downhearted over his own sin, the sin of another or others, or the sinful state of the world in general. The fact that the Word brings comfort in our affliction affirms the fact of the Word’s reviving power; and the reviving effect testifies to the fact of the sinner’s sure salvation, and therefore his rightful share in the mind of Christ. Otherwise the sinner would remain out in the cold, uncomforted.

The shepherd’s own sheep hear his voice. Those belonging to Christ have the blessing of discernment; they are given to know their Shepherd, and they are revived by his voice in times of despondency and doubt. Paul said, “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16).

I waited patiently for the Lord;
And He inclined to me and heard my cry.

He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay,
And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm.

He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God;
Many will see and fear
And will trust in the Lord.—Psalm 40:1-3

It’s almost—no, it’s completely impossible for me not to despond over Things Going On in the World that I find unjust, plainly wrong, or discouraging for any number of reasons. These texts and numerous others between the same covers, keep me from having to put rags under my arms like Jeremiah, to be extracted from the miry clay.

Be strong and let your heart take courage,
All you who hope in the LORD.”—Psalm 31:24 (NASB)

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Laban and Jacob

Laban probably would not make the 10 Favorite People of the Bible list of very many Bible-reading people. He’s edgy. He pushes the line between honest and poor-faith dealing. . .and he doesn’t do much that demonstrates any intent to glorify God. He’s Jacob’s uncle, the brother of Rebekah, Jacob’s mother. A guileful streak runs in the family–just like the ringstreaked cattle Jacob breeds, outbreeding his uncle’s herd and increasing his own. But he’s earned it, and he’s Jacob, after all, and we admire him, because God set him apart as a patriarch, a grandson of Abraham, head of the Messianic line. There were certainly some men undeserving of admiration in the line as well; but for the very most part, we admire Jacob.

But we’re not like Jacob–at least I’m not. Two consecutive verses convict me that I am more of a Laban, absent gender considerations. The two verses are the last verse of Genesis 31 and the first verse of Genesis 32.

. . .and Laban departed and returned to his place (Gen. 31:55). And Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. (Gen. 32:1).

I have a prosaic life. I’m usually home; if not, at some point I go home. Like Laban. Unlike Jacob, I’ve never met any angels, at least none that I was given to know were angels. Jacob knew:

And Jacob said when he saw them, This is God’s host. . . (Gen. 32:2).

Yet Laban, the father of Leah, mother of Judah, is hardly insignificant in the scheme of redemptive history.

When I consider the possibility of anyone or anything ultimately being insignificant—then, like Job, I have to cover my mouth. (Job 40:4)

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on distinguishing repentance and regret

“For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.” (2 Cor 7:10)

New American Standard Bible (NASB)
Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation

I recently puzzled for a few days over this text. Somehow it hasn’t puzzled me so much before, but it could simply be one of those well-placed providential TBEs (“transitory braindeath episodes”—my explanation for nearly everything frustrating).

Part of the trouble for my syntax-sensitive mind is the NASB’s arrangement of the clauses. Reading the NASB order makes it seem to me, that if I repent something without regretting it, it is the right sort of repentance because it leads to salvation. Thus, the sequence would tend to leave me a little stymied. The ESV, like the KJV, orders the text more intelligibly:

“For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.”

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

John Gill helped; he always does. It is, of course, salvation, not repentance, that comes without regret. God gives us to repent. And God provides salvation–a salvation that He will never regret–it is a done deal He brought about before the foundation of the world. Salvation is the perfect gift of a perfect God who will never regret the gift He has given, because His redeemed are His gift to His Son.

What a reviving, TBE-mitigating thought.

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Why we love Mlle. Hermis Moutardier

Aficionados of truly idiotic bungled terrorist attempts will surely recall Mlle. Hermis Moutardier, the flight attendant on American Airlines Flight 63 from Paris to Miami, December 22, 2001. The truly heroic Miss Moutardier subdued the undeservedly famous Richard Reid, aka the Shoe Bomber, with her pitcher of cold water.

Miss Moutardier, assisted by fellow flight attendants and passengers, demonstrated courage, resourcefulness, and presence of mind in subduing Reid, who is serving a life sentence in prison, while concurrently serving history as the very model of an incompetent aspiring terrorist.

But what specifically makes Mlle. Moutardier heroic to me is her simple likeness in style, as I recall her account, to Jael, wife of Heber and slayer of Sisera, commander of the Canaanite army and enemy of Israel.

Jael’s heroism is recounted in Judges 4-5. Basically, Sisera is running away from a lost battle, and shows up at Jael’s door, asking for water. She gives him milk, and a festive bowl of tasty curds. He lies down for a nap.  Jael takes up some tent pegs and a handy mallet, and nails Sisera’s temples to the tent floor. Note the happy ending: “And the land had rest for forty years” (Judges 5:31).

Mlle. Moutardier is a freedom fighter, one after the model of Jael, and I say, good for her. Flight attendants are already designated as part of the team that can save a plane in a crisis when the flight crew is incapacitated. Let’s hope the override controls, that everyone hopes will never be needed, will be in the secure possession of trusted crew, including flight attendants, and not locked up in the cockpit with some psycho killer narcissist.

Regardless of the abysmal probability of Reid’s potential success at lighting up his shoes,  Miss Moutardier stands out as a hero to me, for initiating the subdual of an insanely hostile passenger with her ice-water pitcher. She used a symbol of hospitality to defend her home—the home-in-transit of 197 people. She came forward in the manner and spirit of Jael, whose hospitality led to the demise of a man who threatened her home and her nation. May God keep women like this coming.

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“But the feeble gird on strength. . .”

The total verse reads,

“The bows of the mighty are shattered,
But the feeble gird on strength.” –1 Samuel 2:4 (NASB)

I don’t think Hannah is seeking so much to avenge herself, comparing her barrenness to her testy co-wife’s fecundity–an easy enough way to take the words God gave her to speak–so much as she is acclaiming God’s limitless sovereign power over the whole of creation, and her real confidence that her Lord will change her circumstances and grant her what her heart desires. And He does, of course; otherwise, we would not have the two books of Samuel.

But we do have them, and I came to a reflective halt this time at the particular words, “But the feeble gird on strength,” on a morning I felt puny after a tough night of spinal pain, needing encouragement, and perhaps gratitude, that all my nights are not this hard.

But the feeble gird on strength. . .from the only wise God, for the weak.

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morning study of Romans 8:18, in a sunflower

0710140922sunflower

 

This is already a sunflower. . . but not yet.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. –Romans 8:18

 

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