The First Commandment: H.C. Question 94

What does the Lord require in the first commandment?

1 Corinthians 6:9-10 – Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

1 Corinthians 10:5-14 – Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.

Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.” We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.

These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry.

1 John 5:21 – Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.

Leviticus 19:31 – “‘Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the Lord your God.

Deuteronomy 18:9-12 – When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord; because of these same detestable practices the Lord your God will drive out those nations before you.

Matthew 4:10 – Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”

Revelation 19:10 – At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers and sisters who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For it is the Spirit of prophecy who bears testimony to Jesus.”

Revelation 22:8-9 – I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. But he said to me, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your fellow prophets and with all who keep the words of this scroll. Worship God!”

John 17:3 – Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

Jeremiah 17:5, 7 – This is what the Lord says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord…

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lordwhose confidence is in him.

Psalm 104:27-28 – All creatures look to you to give them their food at the proper time.  When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things.

James 1:17 – Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

1 Peter 5:5-6 – In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”  Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.

Colossians 1:11 – being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience,

Hebrews 10:36 – You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.

Matthew 22:37 – Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’

Deuteronomy 6:5 – Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

Proverbs 9:10 – The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

1 Peter 1:17 – Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear.

Deuteronomy 6:13 – Fear the Lord your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name.

Matthew 5:29-30 – If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

Matthew 10:37-39 – “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.



The Holy Spirit: H.C Question 53

What do you believe concerning “the Holy Spirit”?

Genesis 1:1-2 – In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

Matthew 28:18-20 – Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Acts 5:3-4 – Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”

1 Corinthians 6:19 – Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;

2 Corinthians 1:21-22 – Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Galatians 4:6 – Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”

Galatians 3:14 – He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

John 15:26 – “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me.

Acts 9:31 – Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.

John 14:16-17 – And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.

1 Peter 4:14 – If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.



Psalm 89:8-18 "I Believe in God…"



Day 363: Revelation 13-16; The Beasts, The Mark, and the Bowls of Wrath

Today we get the dubious pleasure of meeting more beasts and seemingly crazy images that John is being shown in this vision.  Right off the bat we meet two beasts.  The first one is a beast the arises out of the Sea and has many of the same features as the dragon from yesterdays reading.  In fact, the dragon gives in the power that it has and “his throne” on earth.  There have been many interpretations about what this image means.  Some have interpreted it as a symbol of the Roman empire and its rule in the world.  At this time the Roman empire was heavily persecuting Christians throughout the known world, times were rough and the empire itself probably seemed like a beast of sorts, trying to stamp out the Christian movement while it was still in its infancy.

Other’s have seen this beast as the antichrist, a false messiah that will show up in the world speaking great words and drawing many to himself as he has great authority on the earth.  This has been interpreted to signify a particular human or perhaps a government and perhaps even a corporate institution that will both wield authority and also set itself up as a sort of “savior” of the world.  Like we have held all along though, this Scripture is not meant to point out any one specific thing as being exactly what John is seeing here, but rather to serve as a warning, like Jesus’ words in Matthew 24, that there would be those that would come that would try to draw people, especially believers away from God.

We also meet the second beast today, one that rises out of the land.  Where these beasts come from are rather significant in the Hebrew worldview.  Remember that water symbolizes death and chaos, from the time before creation was created.  It was out of the swirling waters of nothingness that God created everything and it is out of this same chaos that the first beast comes from.  However the second beast is one that arises from creation itself, from the land that has been long plagued with sin.  Perhaps this represents a different nature to this second beast.  It is clearly seen that this second beast has a direct impact on the relationships of people as well as commerce and even the ability to live and make a living.

Together these three, the dragon, the beast from the sea, and the beast from the earth have been called the “unholy trinity.”  This is a direct opposition to the Triune nature of God, and these three directly oppose God.  In some ways this makes sense in that the dragon is seen attacking the woman, trying to thwart the overall plan of God, the beast from the Sea comes from the same place that we see John talk about Jesus, the Divine Word made Flesh, coming from in the very beginning.  The second beast then would be in contrast to the Holy Spirit, working within the hearts of humanity, working against their relationships with each other and with God.  While this is an interpretation, the number that is given for this seems to coincide with this a bit.  John gives the number 666 as the mark of the beast, but also says that understanding this number calls for wisdom.  It could mean a lot of things, but the significance of the three numbers that are all one less than seven, a number representing the divine, does seem to suggest something.  The three numbers often represent God, the three persons of God, and the number seven represents wholeness or completeness.  It would stand to reason then, that God’s number could easily be 777.  With that being said, the number 666 represents imperfection, only an attempt to be divine, to have any sort of power.  It is only with the One True God that the fullness and completeness of Divine power, love, and grace and be seen.

Finally today I want to draw our attention once again to the working of God’s wrath in Revelation 16.  These are very powerful images that come to us, visions of God’s wrath being poured out on the earth from bowls.  In some ways it is very difficult to even read about and these images bring to our minds questions about how the God of Love could do such things.  Once again I think it is important to remember that God’s love is actually the source of God’s wrath.  When sin entered the world, all of creation was corrupted and set on a path of sin.  From that time on, oppression and injustice were present.  We see this throughout history and especially when it comes against the people of God, the wrath of the Lord is kindled.  This isn’t judgment out of anger, it is the deep deep passion of God’s love for His creation that has been aroused to righteous anger.  The Lord is indignant because all He has created which He loves so much is being torn apart by sin.  As we read about these bowl judgments we see that it is said time and again that people would not turn to God, that instead of repenting they would curse God and not worship Him.  Ultimately this is the goal of God’s wrath and judgment upon creation; it was when He was judging Israel, it is now, and it will be when these come to pass in whatever form they come in.  God is trying desperately to get the attention of those who refuse to follow Him and in so doing He is also punishing the sin that has plagued all of creation.

Unfortunately, these are not things that we often here anymore.  We talk a length about the love of God and the compassion that He and stuff.  These are all well and good… however it leaves a lot of questions to be answered when we read of God’s judgment on creation.  The fact of the matter is that God is a God of love, but He is also a God of justice and we have to hold both of these things in His hand.  We like to think that everybody is just going to be happy in the end, but as that end approaches there will be those that won’t be happy about it, those that have chosen to reject God and oppose Him.  While there will be ample time for them to repent, with lots and lots of warnings as we clearly see here, there will be a time when the end will come and the choice to oppose God and refuse Him will be final.  Again this is unfortunate; my heart aches even as I write this, but it is the reality that we are presented with in Scripture… no matter how much we don’t want to hear it.  Jesus Christ offers us the hope of salvation by grace alone through our faith in Him.  All we need to do is accept Him as our Lord and Savior and believe in His Name.  We never know how much time is actually left which means that we need to be sharing the Gospel of Grace with everyone all the time!

(I would like to mention, that the articles that I am referencing as “related” are those that have been suggested by wordpress and do not necessarily support of coincide with the beliefs that I hold or write about.  I neither cast my unknowing support to them nor do I say that they are wrong, simply conversational partners in this journey through the Scriptures.)



Day 332: 1 Corinthians 5-9; Questions and Answers

There are two main purposes that Paul had in writing this letter to the church in Corinth.  The first reason, as we saw yesterday, was to deal with some pretty major issues that the believers were dealing with.  Some of the first things that we saw Paul addressing in this community of faith were divisions that had cropped up among them.  People were raising up the teachings of some higher than that of others and this was causing a divide among them.  After addressing that, we see today that Paul is moving on to what one of my Bibles calls “disorder” in the church.  I would say this is an understatement as the first thing that is brought up in 1 Corinthians 5 is that of incest.  To be honest, I think this passage is a bit shocking for many people to read as we don’t hear much about incest today… but issues just as horrific as this are present in church communities across the world aren’t they?

We’ve seen hundreds of clergy, religious leaders, and pastors brought into the public eye for the criminal sexual abuse that they had been committing over the course of many years.  The Roman Catholic church is still reeling from the vast number of pedophilic church leaders that were brought into the public eye over the past decade.  Even more people turn a blind eye to the domestic issues of people within our congregations as well.  Child and spousal abuse run rampant throughout our communities and we look the other way.  I wonder what Paul was referring to when he was talking about the boasting of the church in Corinth.  Could they have been honestly been proud and boasting about this man and his “father’s wife” (aka. HIS MOTHER)?  Or maybe it was that they were boasting about the great community that their church had while turning a blind eye to this particular happening.

That might hit a bit more close to home for us.  We talk often about our churches and how we can make them more welcoming, ignoring the fact that people in oppressive relationships walk through our doors every week and we do nothing for them.  Paul doesn’t mince words when he talks about this stuff going on.  “A little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough,” he says.  He says too that we need to get rid of these people; remove them from the body.  Now, I think that this may seem a bit harsh, especially for today’s standards.  What about “let him who is without sin cast the first stone?”  It is true that, even as a community of faith, we are all sinners.  Yet in our redemption through Christ’s blood we are called away from a life of sin and into that of Christ.  Anyone living in sin like this, blatantly disregarding the Word of God, ought not to be allowed among other believers who may also fall into this lifestyle.  Church discipline is one of the most difficult things that a Church has to do, and it is not the Church’s way of allowing itself to be the judge and jury, but rather something that is done in love in an effort to correct and reconcile a person or people.  Never are we called to hate the sinner, lest we would find ourselves filled with self-hatred, but rather to understand that the Love of Christ is poured our for them as well as us, in equal measures.  Corrective action such as church discipline, like that which Paul speaks of here, is ultimately meant to awaken someone to that love so that they may turn from their ways and be healed.

The second main purpose of Paul’s writing this letter to the church in Corinth is to answer questions that the church apparently asked him in a prior correspondence.  Paul makes a sharp transition towards these questions, which he will address throughout the rest of this book, in chapter seven.  These folks had a lot of interesting questions that came up for Paul.  While Paul addresses a great many things around the subject of marriage and singleness, as well as that of food that is sacrificed to idols, and even Christian freedom, all of it revolves around the same point: keeping Christ at the center of it all.  Note that Paul advice on marriage doesn’t have so much to do with marriage as much as it has to do with living a life that is pleasing to God and ultimately following and growing in Him.  Even for those that are “unequally yolked” in marriage to a non-Christian, Paul encourages them to continue in that relationship.  He says that the unbelieving spouse will be “sanctified” by the believing spouse.  There is much discussion around this topic, but what Paul writes here is quite clear.  The use of the word ‘sanctified’ is also very telling as sanctification has to do with the continuing work of the Holy Spirit on the lives of people.  Perhaps Paul is revealing how the Holy Spirit would be working in the lives all family members through the life of a believing member.

Paul has much to say, and I think it deserves noting here, about divorce as well.  “To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband.  But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.”  In a culture where divorce happens to almost one in every two marriages, even in the church, this is a very telling statement and I think that it stands pretty well on its own.  There are often debates about situations of spousal abuse, etc.  I would submit that these are not what is being addressed here and are special situations.

Finally, Paul turns his attention to Christian freedom.  A lot of what he says here also stands on its own and needs little explanation.  The main thrust of what he is saying is that, like he writes to the church in Rome, being free from sin and given salvation does not grant the right to live however we want.  Paul didn’t do whatever he wanted, instead he did whatever was NEEDED to win more people for Christ.  This, I think is very important, and not something that we can just do when the need strikes.  Like an athlete that trains for each game, not knowing what will happen when he or she plays, Paul too says that he did and we must work hard so that we can be ready to win people for Christ at any time, wherever we are.



Day 300: Luke 10-11; Learning to Pray

Today’s reading encompasses a great deal parables, teachings, and miracles of Jesus.  I am planning on covering some of that tomorrow.  Our reading today also touches on the Lord’s prayer, or at least Luke’s version of it.  Prayer is one of the most important parts of the Christian life, and therefore I think that our Lord’s teaching on prayer should be mentioned sometime in this blog.  Luke’s version of the Lord’s prayer is somewhat shorter than it’s Matthew counterpart though, so we will be drawing from both sections.

Both Matthew and Luke’s prayer begin with praise and acknowledgement of God’s holiness.  “Father, hallowed (or holy) is Your name.”  As we enter into prayer, I think that this is a good and appropriate way to orientate ourselves to the one we are praying to.  As creatures of the creator, redeemed sinners coming before a gracious and holy God, it is important for us to remember our true place in the world.  Though God invites us to pray and encourages us to bring our needs before Him, God is still God and we need to remember and acknowledge this as we enter into His presence.

The next words that both Luke and Matthew record are that of asking God to bring His Kingdom.  We pray “Your Kingdom come…” and related to this in Matthew is “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  While talk of the Kingdom of God differs in the idea of what this means, the reference to God’s work on earth throughout history towards the restoration of creation is certainly at or near the center.  Ultimately, this is the will of God too, to bring all of creation back to its original state, the perfection in which it was created.  God has been working for this throughout history, culminating in Jesus Christ coming which hailed the kingdom of heaven here on earth.  Right now we are living in the time in between that and when we will see it in its fullness, the already but not yet period where we are waiting for God to bring all this to an end and reconcile all things to Himself.

It is at this point, when we have oriented ourselves before God and prayed for His will in the world that we then turn to our own needs.  We ask God for “our daily bread” knowing and trusting that God is going to give us all that we need for life.  Jesus talks about through throughout His ministry and teaching, telling us not to worry and showing us how God will provide as He always does.  I think what is important here, not that God’s provision isn’t important or anything because it most definitely is, would be the order in which these things come in the prayer.  Too often we come before God and just rattle off a list of things that we need as if God was some sort of a cosmic vending machine.  Jesus is showing us the appropriate way in which we should be praying to God, the appropriate orientation and therefore the appropriate order.

Jesus moves on from there to asking the Lord for forgiveness.  Again, I think that this is an appropriate place for this, and not just because this is where Jesus put it.  Coming from the Reformed Tradition, and being quite dutch in my heritage, I know what it is like to feel bad about the things that I have done or those things that I failed to do.  So very often we focus in on the fact that we are sinners and need forgiveness.  We are sinners…  we are sinners… Lord have mercy… forgive us… Apart from the things that we need, I would say that this section is the place at which we find ourselves praying so very often.  Yet we don’t need to be stuck in “guilt mode prayer.”  We are not people that have no hope, we live in the reality that grace has already been extended to us!  Jesus has died!  We have been forgiven!  Yes, we sin… but we are FORGIVEN!  This is our current reality and we need to live into it rather than just focusing in on our sins.

Finally we come to the last part of this prayer.  This can probably be the most confusing part of it as well.  Why would we ask God not to lead us into temptation?  God doesn’t tempt.  He doesn’t even make bad things happen to us.  So why do we say this?  I think a more contemporary translation that we use at seminary maybe makes a bit more sense here: “Save Us from the time of Trial.”  Perhaps it just seems to fit more with the phrase in Matthew “deliver us from evil (or the evil one).”  I think it makes more sense with what we know about God as well.  God is not the source of evil, but He does allow us to go through difficult times.  Jesus knew this as He was teaching his Disciples this prayer.  He too would face evil in its greatest assault.  Though Jesus did not want to go through this time, and even prayed that God would take the cup from Him (save us from the time of trial?), yet He resigned to what the will of God the Father was and willingly went through it (deliver us from evil?).  I think that these fit seamlessly together here and round out the Lord’s prayer quite well.

For Thine is the Kingdom, the Power, and the glory forever, Amen.



Day 291: Mark 4-6; Jesus' Ministry in Galilee

Mark waists no time in continuing the narrative of Jesus’ life and ministry.  We begin our reading today with some of the parables of Jesus and the explanations that He gives His disciples about them.  I think it is interesting how He does that, quoting an obscure passage of Isaiah, and not really offering much of what we would consider a solid explanation.  I guess I don’t really understand the reasoning behind this, but Jesus makes the point that the “secrets” of the Kingdom of God are revealed to His disciples (and by extension those who believe), yet for those that don’t, these may be something that they can grab a hold of.  Maybe it is like the seed of the parable that is sown into their hearts, something that the gardener (God) would water and cultivate over time.  In any case, Jesus teaches in this way throughout His ministry.

Another thing that we start to see emerging here, something that perhaps wasn’t as clear in Matthew, is the contrast between those who believe and those who do not believe.  As Jesus continues His ministry, we see Him interacting with more and more people in different regions of Galilee.  What is interesting, and probably what the religious leaders of the time despised, is that Jesus associates more and more with the people they would have considered outcasts by virtue of the law.  Jesus eats with sinners, associates with demon possessed people, heals the sick, and even talks to Gentiles (which sadly enough was worse than all the rest of these put together).  Even in Jesus’ home town, where all the people would have known Him since His youth, Jesus is rejected and very few people believe.  Contrast this with the woman who just wanted to touch a piece of Jesus’ cloak to get healing because she was to humiliated and afraid to ask.  What does Jesus say to her?  “Your faith has made you well, go in peace.”  Mark goes back and forth with this theme as a way of showing very clearly that for those who believe, great healing and peace will come, and for those that don’t, no peace or healing is found.

Finally today, I think that there the particular theme that emerges in chapter six is that of abundance.  While we could look at this in many different ways, I think that the word ‘abundance’ seems to fit.  Jesus calls His disciples to Himself and sends them out empowers to preach and to heal in the same what that He has been doing.  They go out and what we see, though it is not recorded as well in this book, is the Kingdom of God appearing throughout the region in abundance.  Many people are healed, freed from spirits, and given hope.  Next, after the interlude of John the Baptist’s death, we see the narrative of Jesus feeding the five thousand.  This too is a theme of abundance and carries with it the themes from the Lord’s Supper.  As one professor has said to me, “if there is water in the narrative, you best be thinking baptism.  If there is food in the narrative, you best be thinking Communion.”  Though we do not see the liturgy of the Lord’s Supper, we do see the image of Jesus breaking bread and giving it to the people.  In this we see that there is an abundance!  In fact, there is more than an abundance, there is an overflow!  Jesus is revealing to the people that in the Kingdom of God there is no wanting, no hunger, no need, there is only abundance.



Day 249: Ezekiel 32-33; How We Live and Die

While I don’t think it is the main part of our reading today, it certainly is a very prominent and important part of how we think about sin, forgiveness and righteousness when in comes to Christian Theology.  Most of the other writing that we read today is fairly familiar as it seems to be repeated prophecy or words of lament for Pharaoh, whom we spoke of yesterday.  But in the middle of chapter 33, after the Lord reiterated to Ezekiel his position as the watchman of Israel and all the comes along with that, God’s word on salvation, forgiveness, and righteousness comes screaming through the prophesies of judgment that surround it.  What does God say about this?  In so many words: “none of the good that you do can save you from your sinfulness.”

I know that this isn’t the only place in the Bible which the Lord reveals to us that there is nothing that we as humans can do to earn our own righteousness, but if I think about those that write about it in the New Testament, specifically Paul, I have to imagine that he is probably drawing from the Old Testament Scriptures which likely would include this.

The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him when he transgresses, and as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall by it when he turns from his wickedness, and the righteous shall not be able to live by his righteousness when he sins. Though I say to the righteous that he shall surely live, yet if he trusts in his righteousness and does injustice, none of his righteous deeds shall be remembered, but in his injustice that he has done he shall die. 

Paul writes in Romans that “there is no one righteous, no not one,” this is the beginning of the Calvinistic thought of Total Depravity.  God says that when the wicked turn from their sin towards righteousness, they will live, but when a righteous person sins, by that they will die.  Whether or not you are a Calvinist, we understand that the human race is mired in sin and is, by its very nature, completely unable to not sin.  By Ezekiel’s own words, this means that we are going to die.  This is the prophecy that he delivers to Israel here.  No one can ride the coattails of another’s righteousness, nor can they trust their own righteousness for salvation.

There is nothing new in this statement though, despite the claim of injustice.  People could say, “How can God treat people this way?”  Yet it is not at all contrary to the nature of God who is Holy and wholly opposed to sin, Just, and the true measure of righteousness.  These words though, life so many of the words of the Old Testament also pave the way both for the need of Christ and the salvation by the grace that is offered to all through His blood on the cross.  It is clear here that there is no one that, on their own merit, will be able to escape the coming destruction and judgment.  God says, “O house of Israel, I will judge each of you according to his ways.”  Indeed this is true for us as it was true for Israel and every nation around Israel that faced the judgment of God.  Only through the blood of Jesus, having righteousness imputed upon us through our belief in Him can we receive the grace of God and be saved from our sinful ways.



Day 182: Proverbs 1-3; Introduction to Proverbs

Welcome to July and welcome to the book of Proverbs.  This books is attributed mostly to King Solomon, the son of David.  Remember that Solomon was visited by God who offered to grant him anything that he asked for.  Solomon asked for wisdom and the Lord granted him wisdom in abundance so that Solomon was the wisest man that ever lived.  These Proverbs, as well as the books of Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon as attributed to Solomon.

The writings of proverbs are wisdom for living.  You’ve likely heard some of them in your life already; short sayings that seem like quick quips but are actually quite helpful. Some of the sayings that we’ll read are a bit more complex and may require some additional reflection to uncover their deeper meaning.  However, all are meant to help the reader in living a life of wisdom.

Some have said that the book of Proverbs is somewhat devoid of God.  These people would point out that most of what Solomon is saying here is not really about God but about correct moral living.  While in some ways that could be true, God doesn’t show up as much in this book as He did in most of the other books, the idea that God is not in this book couldn’t be further from the truth.  God indeed is here and is the basis for all that is written.  Solomon says it in Proverbs 1:7

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge

The Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom... Photo Credit: www.words2wall.blogspot.com

The Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…
Photo Credit: www.words2wall.blogspot.com

The Hebrew word for ‘knowledge’ used there is actually a rather broad ranging term that encompasses the ideas of knowledge, perception, skill, discernment, understanding, and wisdom.  Solomon is saying that all of what is about to happen here finds its true origin in God alone.  This is not just moralistic teaching, and none of it can be divorced from God.  Knowing God, fearing the Lord (fear being the idea of reverence, awe, worship, wonder) is the basis for all that is to come in this book.  We must recognize that before we move on.

I think that another important thing to mention here is the use of the female pronouns in the book of proverbs when referring to wisdom.  While we have talked about using gender inclusive language when we read the Bible, this is a place where changing the ‘her’ to an ‘it’ would be an injustice to Solomon’s writing.  In these first chapters, Solomon is setting up a very specific contrast between the path of Wisdom and the path of Folly.  He does so by creating something like a scene from a drama: Lady Wisdom and Lady Folly are both trying to win the heart of a young man.  Lady Wisdom calls from the street corner.  She is out there in plain sight for all to see and listen to.  Lady folly though, is like the adulteress woman who sneaks around and creeps into the hearts of those unaware only to disappear as soon as she is done with you.  This is, perhaps, an over dramatized idea of the inward battle between Wisdom and Folly, but as we will see… it is not too far off base.

Wisdom words of James 3 Photo Credit: www.thedisciplestongue.com

Wisdom words of James 3
Photo Credit: www.thedisciplestongue.com

Ultimately the attraction of the way of Folly is that of riches and wealth in quick progression.  Folly offers everything now as long as you are willing to ignore the rules or social convention.  Interestingly though, wisdom offers greater riches over time but on a safe path of understanding, perception, and knowledge that is rooted in the Lord.  In this, Solomon says, we find the true way in which God will also be our protector.  Ultimately the wise person will be blessed in greater ways than that of the foolish, but it takes more work, more patience, and more trust in the Lord.  In chapter 3 Solomon even makes an allusion to the Shema from Deuteronomy 6, keeping things like love and faithfulness bound around the neck and written on the heart.

Ultimately the path of wisdom is going to lead to right living and a blessed life.  The difference, though, between that and the world’s teaching of ‘wisdom’ is that living morally is not an end in itself, it is only a byproduct of keeping our eyes on God.  We don’t live morally for personal gain, we do it because of our love for God and our desire to live for Him as a way of gratitude for all that He has given us.  All of this, all of us should be grounded in the fear of the Lord.  It is the beginning of everything, something we will continue to hold in front of us throughout this book.



Day 181: Psalms 145-150; The Great Doxology

A Doxology is a song of praise to God for His blessings.  Think of the familiar Doxology that you may have sung in Church before:

Praise God from whom all blessings flow
Praise Him all creatures here below
Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!

Worship Photo Credit: www.worshipunashamed.org/

Worship
Photo Credit: www.worshipunashamed.org

Today’s psalms are just that, a doxology.  In one church that I worked in, after we gave our offerings and tithes we all stood and sung the doxology, thanking God for the blessings that He has given us and committing them to the Lord.  It was always a moving experience and did a great job keeping in focus the truth of our giving: We do not give what is ours, we give back to God what was already His and was only entrusted to us.

Today we encounter a Doxology, or what I have deemed “the Great Doxology” in Scripture here at the end of our journey through the psalms.  We’ve spent nearly 1 full month on this book of the Bible combing through its great variety of emotions, teachings, prayers, songs, laments, praises, and so much more.  As we come to the end though, we have the opportunity to look back and see how great the whole of the book of Psalms is and what it indeed has taught us and modeled for us.  And now we have the opportunity to say thank you and to lift up praises to God.

Today (well tomorrow night actually), also marks the half way point in the year!  We’ve come a long ways and have seen the amazing story of God’s work in creation, in the nation of Israel, and in the teachings of His Word.  We have so much to celebrate today!  It is fitting that these psalms also fall on a Sunday (at least they did in 2013), and we have to opportunity to gather with God’s people to worship Him.  The words of the Psalms today fit the worship bill to the letter:

I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.

Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.

Praise the Lord!
For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.

Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from the heavens;
praise him in the heights!
Praise him, all his angels;
praise him, all his hosts!

There are so many songs out there that draw their words from today’s 5 psalms.  One that comes to mind right now is “All Creatures of our God and King”  Take a moment to listen it.  We will close our section on the Psalms with the words of that song today.  I would encourage you to continue reading the psalms too.  I know its a lot of reading with all the other readings that we are doing and the reading of this blog as well.  But, remember as we started out the Psalms I talked about how N.T. Wright said that he reads 5 Psalms a day every day and just keeps repeating them?  He does this because he said that it has helped him learn how to pray, praise, lament, thank, trust, hope and worship the Lord through the words of Scripture.  This, he said, was an invaluable experience.  Maybe you can’t read 5 psalms a day… maybe you can only read 1 or 2… that’s ok!  I encourage you to continue doing that as often as you can!  Let the Word of God flow over you.  Let the Word of God read you… that you may find yourself and your story in it!

All creatures of our God and King
Lift up your voice and with us sing
O praise Him alleluia
Thou burning sun with golden beam
Thou silver moon with softer gleam
O praise Him O praise Him
Alleluia alleluia alleluia

Thou rushing wind that art so strong
Ye clouds that sail in Heav’n along
O praise Him alleluia
Thou rising moon in praise rejoice
Ye lights of evening find a voice
O praise Him O praise Him
Alleluia alleluia alleluia

Let all things their Creator bless
And worship Him in humbleness
O praise Him alleluia
Praise praise the Father praise the Son
And praise the Spirit three in One
O praise Him O praise Him
Alleluia alleluia alleluia