Monday, June 30, 2008

Day 181: Psalm 36

SCRIPTURE LINK: Psalm 36

BACKGROUND:

Psalm 36, along with Psalm 18, are the only two Psalms in which David refers to himself as a servant of the LORD. In what way was David God's servant? What does that mean?

“This psalm is a beautiful meditation on the blessings of God on the righteous who must live in a world that is characterized by unrighteousness. All around are people who do not believe in God and therefore live by different standards…” Allen Ross

I spent quite a bit of time meditating on the psalm and then found this article on Psalm 36 by Allen Ross that delved into much of what I thought about. I’ve linked it for those of you who want to read more. It’s quite long, but good reading.

REFLECTION:

This psalm is full of images worth pondering. Why don’t you choose one to meditate on today? Here’s what I’ve been thinking about:

“You give them drink from your river of delights, For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.” (NIV, vv. 8b – 9)

I LOVE these images. I thought of Genesis 1 and how light was created before the sun and stars – I don’t understand that, but I believe it. I think of light as coming from the sun and the stars, but apparently there is a source of light other than those. How little we know! I thought of Psalm 1 and how those who are godly are planted by a river, ever nourished and so able to bear fruit. I thought of John 1: “In him (Jesus) was life, and that life was the light of men.” I thought of John 12: “I (Jesus) have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” I thought of 1 Peter 2: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you many declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (That last verse even ties in the idea of being a servant! David, God’s servant, is doing what the verse in 1 Peter describes, long before the verse in 1 Peter was written.)

I recently visited my sister and her family in the country in Pennsylvania. They have a spring on their land. Clear, cold water continually springs up from the ground – a “river” of delight! Long ago someone tapped into the spring and funneled its water into pipes that flow to the house. There is so much water that there is overflow that runs through a spring house and into a pond! That spring came to mind as I thought about the fountain of life available to us in the LORD – everflowing and abundant and refreshing – and life giving - if I drink.

And He is light. God’s light enables us to see what is true and good, to understand spiritually. "In your light we see light" is in some senses a conundrum and maybe that is why I love it – As I trust God and live in the light He gives me I am able to see yet more light, to see more clearly.

I hope you will take some time today to meditate on part or all of this psalm.

APPLICATION:

We live in a world where many voices call us, advise us, and offer us help and fulfillment. Often they promise a kind of spiritual nourishment, mental refreshment, and “light,” apart from the life revealed by the Lord in His Word.

Where to I go for nourishment and for light? When I am tired or bewildered or troubled or discouraged do I go to God and His Word or do I seek for my answers in some other source?

What about you?

PRAYER:

This psalm is so full of YOUR greatness and goodness, LORD, and I have only stuck a toe in its depths. Help us to find our life and light in You. Amen.

I also found this song of praise by Third Day which is based on part of the psalm. Listen to it if you want!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Day 177: Deuteronomy 30

Circumcision of the Heart

READ:
Deuteronomy 30

BACKGROUND:
In chapter 29, God told His people that they will disobey Him and they will therefore be destroyed and scattered and their land will be destroyed as well. Chapter 30 predicts the change of heart that Israel will experience and the ensuing restoration to their land. They will return to the Lord and will obey Him with all their heart and soul. God will have compassion on them and will gather them and bring them back to their land. They will obey the Lord and observe all His commandments, and God will prosper and multiply them.

God assures Israel that this commandment is not beyond their reach. He has made it plain for them to understand. They do not need any more revelation or special connections. It's all right in front of them, and they can obey it.

So, the choice is up to them --
I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the LORD your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him . . . (Deut. 30:19-20)

REFLECTION:
There are two aspects I'm reflecting on in this chapter. The first one is the idea that God will circumcise the hearts of the people.
Moreover the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, in order that you may live. (Deut. 30:6)
When God circumcises the heart, the result is that the person will love Him with all his heart and soul. That's what I want. It requires a painful internal alteration, but it's worth it!

The other aspect I'm reflecting on in this chapter is the choice that God is giving the people. They can choose to obey and have life and the blessing, or to disobey and have death and the curse (vs. 19-20). When they choose life, they are choosing to love the LORD, obey Him and hold fast to Him.

APPLICATION:
Real life consists of loving the Lord, obeying Him and holding fast to Him. Holding fast to Him means to cling to Him. If there's only one thing I hang onto, it should be God -- not my money, husband, children, house, job, etc. I must be fully devoted to the Lord, obeying Him, and loving Him. Real relationship with God requires internal change and growth (circumcision) of my heart. It is often painful at the time, but results in life and blessing from God.

PRAYER:
Lord, incline my heart toward You to obey You and be blessed by You. Circumcise my heart, so I can learn to love You with all my heart and soul. My heart is weak and sometimes I get stubborn toward You. I need You to soften my heart and give me strength. I choose YOU, Lord, to love You, to obey You, and to cling to You each day. Amen.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Day 174: Psalm 35

SCRIPTURE LINK: Psalm 35

BACKGROUND

The modern reader is often jarred by reading this psalm which contains strong words against enemies. This psalm is called by some an imprecatory (or cursing) psalm, because of David’s call to God for punishment of the ones harassing him. It is called a lament by others. A lament is a song or poem of grief and mourning. This psalm does contain cries of grief and it does ask for God to render justice to those treating David unfairly, but I’m not sure the entire psalm fits either category well.

It’s not clear when the psalm was written or what predicated it. We do know that David was treated poorly by powerful people at least twice: by King Saul, who hunted and hounded him unmercifully and by Absalom, David’s own son, who rose up in rebellion against him and tried to take the throne of Israel. It’s possible that this psalm was written specifically in response to either Saul’s persecution or Absalom’s betrayal, or it could have been written in response to some entirely different situation!

Psalm 35 cycles through the series of complaint, prayer, and praise three times. David complains about his enemies’ treatment of him; he asks for God’s help; he praises God (or promises to praise God). Sometimes complaint and prayer are mixed together. If you want you can look at the cycles: 1 – 10; 11 – 18; 19 – 28.

And one other note of interest: Jesus himself quoted part of this psalm in John 15:25. He quoted Psalm 35:19. “The word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.” So this psalm is in some sense a foreshadowing of Jesus’ innocent suffering.

REFLECTION

Okay, so let’s look at the psalm!

What is David’s complaint?

Someone is trying to kill him, is plotting evil against him (4). These people are trying to trap him when he is innocent (7). People are accusing him of things he didn’t do (11, 15). People are repaying him evil for the good he did them (12). In the past, when these people were sick, David had prayed for them – not glibly – but with fasting and true sorrow (13 -14). Then, when David stumbled somehow, these same people rejoiced and gathered others to injure him (15) by being deceitful about him and tearing him apart (17). They hate him and they are trying to hurt him by whatever means they can and he doesn’t deserve what they’re doing.

What is the usual human reaction in circumstances like this, when we are being treated unfairly? Isn’t it to fight back somehow, either assertively or perhaps with passive aggression somehow? To do to them what they did to me? To get even?

What does David do? I think that if we really look at this psalm, we’ll see how David dealt with his unfair treatment with integrity.

He prays. He turns to God. He tells God what is happening (complains) and then he asks for justice in the situation, for God to aid him. He doesn’t turn around and do to them what they did to him.

He asks God to fight for him and defend him (1-3), to turn back those hurting him (4), to make them ashamed of what they’re doing (4). He asks that their efforts come to nothing (5), that his enemy be caught in his own net, the trap he is laying for David (8). It seems to David that this unfair treatment is going on too long and he asks God to rescue him from his powerful attackers(17). David comes as a plaintiff (24) to God the judge. He has been wronged and he asks God to hear him and judge in his favor – with fairness.

David does not seek vengeance. He doesn’t repay evil for evil. He turns to the God who is Judge, who redresses wrongs, and asks for justice in the situation.

Then what does David do?

Even before God answers, David praises Him. His focus is turned from his own situation to the God who hears and who will judge fairly. “My soul shall rejoice in the LORD” (9); “I will praise you among a mighty throng” (18); “…My tongue shall declare Your righteousness And Your praise all day long.” (28).

APPLICATION

When someone wrongs you, or lies about you, or accuses you falsely, or treats you unfairly, how do you respond?

Do you make excuses for them and shove the hurt away, thinking to yourself that you shouldn’t be thinking unkind thoughts?

Do you retaliate in kind? “They hurt me so I’m going to hurt them back?”

Do you get even in more subtle ways, either passive aggressively, or with little digs, or with “the silent treatment” ?

All of those are natural human responses. But they’re not the right responses. I think we can learn something from this psalm. We should recognize that we have been hurt unfairly and name how we’ve been damaged to God. If the unfair treatment continues we should ask for Him to help – for justice in the situation. And we should praise Him for His help even before it comes.

PRAYER

Help us to turn to you, Father, when we are treated unfairly, rather than respond in a natural human way. Thank-you that you are a God who hears and helps. Help us to leave justice in your fair and loving hands.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Day 170: Deuteronomy 22

Protection

READ: Deuteronomy 22

BACKGROUND:
On my first reading of this chapter, it seemed to be a collection of random commands. But when I went back through making notes I saw a common theme of protection.

  • PROTECT property. If you see something someone else has lost, be considerate and do what you can to return it to its owner. Don't just ignore it and go on your way. Protect each other's property.
  • PROTECT your identity as a man or a woman. God designed male and female to be distinctly different. There may have been pagan practices that God was telling the Israelites to avoid. Or God may simply be protecting the unique identities of His creation.
  • PROTECT the mother animal if you are taking the mother or the babies, leave the mother. She will produce more offspring. If they took the mother and left the young, they would be helpless and would die a cruel death. God never allows cruelty -- to humans or animals.
  • PROTECT anyone who walks on your roof. They built houses with flat roofs and used the roofs as part of the living space. So God commanded the Israelites to be sure to build a wall or something similar to keep people from falling off the roof.
  • PROTECTION FROM CORRUPTION -- These next three things might be examples of what happens when you try to mix godliness with the corruption of the world. It doesn't work. Mixing seeds defiles the crop. Mixing animals of different strengths and strides frustrates the work. And mixing fabric types affects the usefulness and wearability of the fabric. (The fabric example is unclear and may be because there was a pagan practice of mixing wool and linen to create a "magic" fabric.)
  • PROTECTING WOMEN against false accusations of promiscuity and against rape. Men who did these things were to be severely punished. Women who were promiscuous would be punished, but men were also responsible for their actions. This was very different from the world around them where women had no rights, were used for religious prostitution, and were often considered as objects to be used and discarded as men pleased.

REFLECTION:
Mothers are often quite protective of their own children. I know I am. But when it comes to protecting other people, especially people we don't know, our society has a tendency to turn the other way. We don't want to get involved. To love your neighbor is to protect his interests, his property, his reputation, his safety.

APPLICATION:
The opposite of love isn't always hate. It could just as well be indifference. Am I indifferent to the needs and rights of others? Or am I careful to watch out for the other guy? We need to keep our homes safe for others, protect the innocent from slander, and return what is lost to its rightful owner.

PRAYER:
Lord, help me to be sensitive to the rights and needs of those around me. Let me help others rather than be indifferent toward them. Just like you show your love for me by acting on my behalf, let me show your love to others by acting on their behalf. Amen.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Psalm 34 - I Will Bless the Lord at All Times

SCRIPTURE LINK: Psalm 34

BACKGROUND

This psalm is an invitation! David says, “O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt His name together.” How utterly wonderful that across the centuries we can join David in magnifying and exalting our LORD. We are also invited to “taste and see that the LORD is good; how blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” The Life Application Study Bible has a valuable insight into that invitation to “taste” in verse 8: “ ‘Taste and see’ does not mean, ‘Check out God’s credentials.’ Instead, it is a warm invitation: ‘Try this; I know you’ll like it.’ When we take that first step of obedience in following God, we cannot help discovering that he is good and kind. When we begin the Christian life, our knowledge of God is partial and incomplete. As we trust him daily, we experience how good he is.” (856) We are blessed as we trust in Him as our refuge; the more we trust, the more we taste His goodness.

This psalm begins with some background information: “A Psalm of David when he feigned madness before Abimelech, who drove him away and he departed.” This probably refers to what happened in 1 Samuel 21: 10 – 22:2. So follow the link to that passage for the historical situation that prompted this psalm. A’chish was the king of Gath, a city state of the Philistines. In the heading of Psalm 34 he is referred to as Abimelech. It’s possible that Abimelech was the title given to all of Gath’s kings or A’chish could have been known by two names, a common occurrence in ancient times. David was running away from Saul, who was trying to take his life, and he ran to another country (Gath) – the enemy of Israel. When he pretended to be crazy, the king of Gath got fed up with him, and David fled Gath for the caves of Adullam. Perhaps David composed and sang this psalm to his men in those caves.

It is also thought that verse 20 foreshadows that Jesus, in His suffering for us, didn’t receive one broken bone.

“The passover lamb, of which not a bone was broken, prefigured Jesus as one, "not a bone of whose body should be broken;" and yet, at the same time, it prefigured the complete keeping and safety of Christ's body, the church; as it is written, He keepeth all his bones; not one of them is broken.” from Andrew A. Bonar's Commentary on Leviticus.

REFLECTION

David begins this psalm by boasting in and praising God, and then invites others to join him in telling of the LORD’s greatness. What characterizes those who receive God’s blessings? What are the blessings God gives them? If you haven’t read Psalm 34 yet, do it now, with those questions in mind.

Look at all the blessings mentioned in this psalm. I won’t look at all of them, but there are a few that ministered to my heart. Verse 5: “They looked to Him and were radiant, and their faces were not ashamed.” This reminds me of Moses, who had to cover his face because it was so radiant after he was with God. It’s important who we look to in faith. Who are you looking at? Looking at Jesus removes our shame. If we’re focusing on Him then we aren’t focusing on what we have to be ashamed of.

Another image that impacts my heart is this: “The angel of the LORD encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them.” (7) If we reverence God in our hearts and lives, we are surrounded by the angel of the LORD! How cool is that! That angel is camped all around us.

And this, in verse 15. “The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry.” If I am in Christ, then I am forgiven, which means I am righteous. God is looking at me and listening to me – He’s tuned into me. I’m not just out there on the periphery of his interest, but at the center.

Don’t you feel like praising God when you meditate on these truths? Doesn’t it make you want to show Him you love Him? I think that’s the result it had on David, too.

What kind of people are blessed like that by God? Well, get this. It’s not the powerful or proud. Here are some phrases the psalm uses to describe those who are blessed by God. They seek Him (4, 10); they look to Him (5); they cry out to Him (6, 15, 17); they reverence or fear Him (9); they speak good (13); they are honest, not deceptive (13); they pursue peace (14); they are broken hearted rather than hard hearted (18); they are sorry for their sins (18); they belong to God, are His servants (22); they trust in the LORD (22).

There is one other verse that I want to reflect on and that’s verse 10. “The young lions lack and suffer hunger; but those who seek the LORD shall not lack any good.” First of all, I wonder why the first half of the verse brings up young lions?

When our children were little my father used to ask them questions, kind of like a game, and one question was, “If you could be an animal, what animal would you want to be?” I remember our son’s answer the first time he was asked. “A lion, of course! It’s at the top of the food chain.” So maybe this verse uses young lions, fed by the most powerful of earthly creatures - adult lions, as a metaphor for those who are powerful and strong Being powerful or strong (or being their children) isn’t any guarantee of anything. Suffering happens. To all of us.

So what does the last part of the verse mean? Does it mean that nothing bad will ever happen to those who seek the LORD? I don’t think so. Further down in the psalm, in verse 19, we read “Many are the afflictions of the righteous… .” So we WILL have afflictions – guaranteed. What is good? Is it what make us happy? Is it ease and comfort? Is it physical safety? Is it plenty to eat? When we seek God, who is good, we will find HIM. He promises Himself to us. So we may suffer many things in this life (and many believers have), but we will not lack any good, because we are found in God, who is goodness.

I have been through some afflictions in my life – not terrible ones, but not always ordinary ones either. I can tell you from my own experience that I have found this psalm to be true. When I sought God in the middle of excruciatingly hard times, when I cried to Him – I did experience His goodness and His help, not always on my time table, though!

APPLICATION

Is there something you fear? I don’t think it’s any mistake that this psalm tells us that to be delivered from our fears we need to seek the LORD, to fear Him. If we’re fearing God, then we won’t fear other things. This psalm is a good reminder to refocus our gaze on Him, to cry to Him.

So look to God. Be broken before Him and cry to Him. Be honest with Him. Seek Him. He promises to satisfy you with His goodness. Trust Him.

PRAYER

Oh my Father God, I thank you for this psalm. I thank you that your help doesn’t come to me because I do things right or because I appear strong or independent or good – because I am none of those things. You know my heart. You know that it is often hard toward you. Thank you for using your word to soften it, to break it before you. Thanks that your answer to my cry comes because of who you are, in spite of me. Thank you that you have redeemed me! I have tasted and I do see that you are GOOD!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Day 163: Deuteronomy 15

Generosity

Read Deuteronomy 15

BACKGROUND:
Every seventh year was to be a sabbatical year, a holy year of rest. The Israelites were not to sow or reap crops, giving the land a year of rest. God promised to provide enough during the sixth year to meet the needs of both the sixth and seventh years. (In the same way, he had provided a double portion of manna on the sixth day every week in the wilderness.) This sabbatical year was also a time to release all debts, and this is what is being addressed in this chapter.

If Israel would keep this command (which they didn't), the whole nation would benefit.
  1. There would not be a problem with poverty in the nation of Israel.
  2. The Lord would bless the land making it very fruitful.
  3. Israel would lend to other nations and rule over them.
  4. Israel would not need to borrow from other nations.
  5. Other nations would not hold power over Israel.
God prescribes the proper treatment of those who are in need --
  1. Do not harden your heart toward a brother in need and refuse to help him.
  2. Generously lend him whatever he needs.
  3. Watch your heart! Don't refuse to help someone just because it's almost the sabbatical year and he won't have to repay you.
  4. If you give with a generous heart (not grieving your loss), God will bless you in your work.
Slaves were to be released in the seventh year as well. If a man owed more than he could repay, he could sell himself (or a family member) into slavery in order to pay off the debt. Here the Israelites are instructed to free such a man when the sabbatical year arrived and, in addition, not to send him away empty handed.

However, if such a man should choose to remain a slave, he would have his ear pierced as a symbol of that decision and remain in service the rest of his life.

This chapter concludes with a reminder that all firstborns belong to God. Another opportunity to give with a generous heart.

REFLECTION:
Generosity. God wants us to be generous to those in need, the impoverished, and Him. It's described here as "freely open your hand" and "furnish him liberally." One who is truly generous is not hostile toward the one in need and does not grieve for what he loses by giving it away. He is truly glad to give.

Now this I say, he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully. Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver. (1 Corinthians 9:6-7)

APPLICATION:
I want to have a generous heart. Here are some questions I ask myself. When I'm considering giving to a need, am I more concerned with what I'd lose than with what another would gain if I gave? Am I concerned enough about those in need to actually do something about it? Or do I just say I sympathize and leave it at that? And do I give generously to the Lord? At the end of chapter 14, God required a tithe (10%) of everything, and here He requires the first of everything. Do I give at least one-tenth of my earnings to God? Do I give to Him first, before keeping for myself? Do I give to Him cheerfully and willingly?

PRAYER:
Lord, give me a heart that is generous. Help me remember that what I have is really Yours and to do with it what You would have me to do. Soften my heart toward those in need. Teach me to open my hand and help those in need regardless of whether I'll ever be repaid for it. Let me give with a cheerful heart. Because Jesus gave all for me. Amen.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Day 160: Psalm 33

SCRIPTURE LINK: Psalm 33

BACKGROUND

This psalm is a song of praise to God. I read somewhere that to praise means to confess in the form of a declaration. So when we praise God we confess that we trust and believe Him by declaring who He is and what He has done. Simply saying “Praise God,” over and over again is a call to praise Him, but isn’t actually praise itself. As you read this psalm, notice how the author praises God, what is declared about God and what He’s done.

No author is assigned to Psalm 33. The author is unknown (except by God!). And one other tidbit: this is the first psalm in which musical instruments are mentioned.

REFLECTION

Notice the last verse of Psalm 32, “ Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous; and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!”

And Psalm 33 begins, “Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous! For praise is beautiful for the upright.”

It picks up right where the previous psalm left off – with rejoicing! And if we want to be beautiful and becoming (that word beautiful is also translated “becoming” or “comely”) then we will “wear” praises to God.

So the psalm begins with an injunction for us to praise God, to shout joyfully to Him, to sing praises to Him, to make melodies to Him on musical instruments. And the rest of the psalm confesses aloud truths about God and so demonstrates to us how to praise Him. I would love to hear this put to music.

What are some truths about God that are declared or confessed here? Why is He worthy of songs of praise?

Here’s what I came up with:

His word is right and truthful.
He loves righteousness and justice.
The world itself displays His goodness.
He is Creator: He spoke and the heavens and earth were made.
He is Sustainer: He keeps the oceans gathered together. (I love the figurative language in verse 7!)
When He commands something it happens.

God is greater than the greatest of the nations.
Nations may have big plans, but God can make them of no effect.
Nations come and go, but God’s counsel is forever.
God is in charge! He is sovereign over all.
His people are blessed.

God is not surprised by what happens here on earth. He sees everyone and has fashioned each heart individually. He understands and considers what people do.

People shouldn’t place their hopes in a mighty army or in powerful weapons.

God watches over those who revere Him, those who place their hope in His mercy.
He delivers their souls from death.
He feeds their hearts in dry times.

This is who God is! So our souls wait for Him, our help and shield.
And our hearts rejoice in Him. We trust and hope in His mercy.

As I read and pondered this psalm I was filled with the heart understanding that God is sovereign and good and so worth my praise.

PRAYER APPLICATION

I want to be a woman who praises God. I am convinced that there is a connection between praise and trust. I hope you, too, will realize more and more that you want to confess your trust in God by declaring truths about Him to yourself and others - that you will PRAISE GOD!

So practice today. Try one of these two things:

Read this psalm to yourself a few times and the last time stand up, read it out loud and SHOUT the phrases that were most meaningful to you. I mean it! That phrase “sing for joy” in v. 1 can also be translated “shout for joy.” So what in this psalm makes you rejoice? Shout it!

OR

Write your own psalm of praise to God. In it confess your trust in Him by declaring some truths about who He is and what He has done. Then read it (pray it!) out loud.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Day 157: Proverbs 7

SCRIPTURE LINK: Proverbs 7

BACKGROUND

This chapter opens with the father once again pleading with his son to treasure his words and advice. He reiterates his plea over and over again, rephrasing it just in case it’s not clear to his son.

Then he uses two kinds of women as metaphors for wisdom and immorality. He tells his son that if he loves wisdom like a beloved sister, she will keep him from listening to the flattery of sin, who is pictured as an adulterous woman.

Two women – two very different appeals, with opposite consequences.

As we will see later this month, the next chapter of Proverbs (Proverbs 8) personifies wisdom as a woman, a woman we are to be close to. This chapter (7) tells a story of a youth who is seduced by an adulterous woman. Because wisdom is personified as a woman, I believe this immoral woman could personify sin, since sin is adultery from God. The woman Wisdom leads us to God; the woman Sin seduces us away from Him.

The chapter ends with a final plea from the father to his children: Don’t wander onto the immoral woman’s path! Though she looks attractive and inviting, her ways lead to death.

REFLECTION

Verse 2 says, “Keep my commandments and live, and my teaching as the apple of your eye.” The phrase “apple of your eye” is used to show that something is treasured and protected. (The “apple” is the pupil of the eye, the hole in the middle of the iris that admits light so that we can see.) God calls His people the apple of His eye! Here we are told to treasure and safeguard God’s instructions and teaching – His word.

Have you read the words of verse 3 anywhere recently? See Deuteronomy 6:8! Again, we are reminded to keep God’s commands close to us, almost a part of us.

As I read the story of the simple youth I am struck by its vividness. I am struck by the fact that the man who is led astray is young. He is young and seems to be hanging out with other youths without any apparent purpose. The passage says he lacks understanding. He wasn’t listening to wisdom as he would a beloved sister. He wasn’t keeping God’s words in the center of his vision.

It was evening and dark, shadows all around. I wonder about that. Isn’t it easier for us to sin when we think no one will see?

What about the woman? How did she tempt him? It we look a bit deeper we’ll see how sin seduces. For one thing, she isn’t passive. She is crafty and loud and rebellious. She is out looking for someone. How many people went by before she found the one who was vulnerable?

She puts on a nice front to the one she approaches. She says in verse 14 that she’d just paid her vows (worshipped). To someone without understanding, that might feel safe.

Next she flatters the youth. “I’ve been waiting for you! You are the one I desire!”

And she entices him with beauty and comfort and luxury and sensuality.

Then she says, “Come let us take our fill of love until morning; let us delight ourselves with love. For my husband… ” How ironic! If the youth was at all discerning that should alert him! And what a lie! She is equating sex with love. There is no way that the casual sex that she wants could satisfy the longing for love and mutual delight that comes through commitment.

She uses words to entice and words to flatter and words to seduce. And the na├»ve young man, having no purpose and not listening to his sister Wisdom, goes with her like an ox to the slaughter, or a bird caught by a snare. He doesn’t know it, but he is going to death.

So sad and so scary. What a lesson.

APPLICATION

Using this chapter, come up with some principles that can help you give wise counsel to your friends, your children, and even yourself.

Sin is out there all the time looking for those who are vulnerable. How can we be prepared?

PRAYER

Thanks for Your word, Lord. Help me to treasure it as the apple of my eye, so that I can see clearly. Help us, too, as we teach our children, to make clear to them the need for the wisdom and insight that come from clinging to You and Your word. Please give our children discernment and purpose in You. In Jesus’ Name. Amen

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Day 156: Deuteronomy 7 & 8

Destroy the Canaanites & Remember Where You Came From

SCRIPTURE:
Deuteronomy 7 & 8

BACKGROUND:
Moses is continuing with instructions for the Israelites when they enter the land God is giving to them. First, they are to completely destroy the seven nations who currently live there. Those societies are entirely corrupt and if left intact will corrupt God's people. Although these nations are stronger than Israel, they are not to fear them, for God will go ahead of them to drive them out and deliver them into their hands.

Many people ask: Why would God want the Israelites to destroy these people? Isn't that rather harsh? But from God's standpoint, the Canaanites are ripe for judgment. Remember back in Genesis 15:16ff when God promised this land to Abram? He wasn't giving it to Abram then because He said, "the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete." In other words, God was merciful and patient with these societies for several generations. But ultimately they never repented and just became more and more corrupt. So now the Israelites would enact God's judgment on these nations.

Second, God instructs them (again) to keep His commandments. And if they do, He promises to bless them greatly. They will live in abundance, will not be plagued with diseases, and will be victorious over their enemies.

God also reminds Israel of the care He has provided while they wandered in the wilderness. Since God has proven Himself to be so faithful, they ought to be faithful to God by keeping His commandments.

REFLECTION:
When God told Israel to destroy the seven nations who are bigger and stronger, He also assured them that He was the one who would really be doing it. And lest they be afraid to obey, He reminded them of His demonstrated power in Egypt. God truly is a mighty God, and if He tells me to do something -- even though it may seem impossible -- He is the one who will provide the power for me to do it.

God also reminded Israel that He didn't choose them because of what they could do for Him. He chose a powerless, tiny people who could do nothing. That way it's only His power that is demonstrated. They did nothing to deserve His love, so His love is what shines, rather than how great they were that God should choose them.

The Israelites are not holy because they keep the Law. They are holy because God made them holy. He set them apart from the rest of the world, and that is what makes Israel a holy nation.

God reminded Israel of His history with them. He is not asking them to take the land from the Canaanites with blind faith. They can see what God has done before. God has a track record, so to speak, so He showed them that they can trust Him on this next phase.

And God reminds them of one more thing -- when they get proud and forget God (which they will do once life gets easy), He will discipline them, and it won't be pretty!

APPLICATION:
Likewise, I need to remember that as a believer, I am holy. But my holiness is not a result of anything I do or don't do. I am holy because God made me holy. He chose me and set me apart for His purpose. He did not choose me because I could do some certain service for the Church. He did not choose me because of my value. He did not choose me because of my strength. He did not choose me because of my obedience. I have service to give, value and strength and obedience because He chose me.

So, when God asks me to do something that looks impossible to me, I need to remember that it's HIS power that will complete the task He gives me. I have the entire Bible, the accounts of many believers throughout history, the accounts of people I know, and the working of God in my own life as examples of God's faithfulness. Isn't that enough! I need to look to Him when I face temptation, when I face trials, in times of great sorrow, in times of hurt or confusion, when the task is too great for me to accomplish. For He is the one who will accomplish the work at hand -- in me and through me.

PRAYER:
Lord, I thank you for choosing me and making me your child. I know that I do not deserve such status. I did nothing to earn it and was small and insignificant. You have chosen to love me and have called me to be holy and to love and obey you. Help me to be mindful of who you are as the God who provides and gives strength for me to love and obey you. Let me not become proud and take credit for myself for the things you do in and through me. Amen.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Day 153: Psalm 32

SCRIPTURE: Psalm 32

Forgiven!

BACKGROUND

This psalm is titled “Maskil,” which is probably a literary or musical term and which some translators believe means “instruction” or “contemplation.” There certainly is instruction in this psalm, instruction that is worth contemplating!

Part of this psalm is quoted by Paul in Romans 4:6 – 8. The passage in Romans explains that we are not made right with God by works, but by faith in God. First Paul uses the example of Abraham, and then he brings up David.

“David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:
Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven;
Whose sins are covered;
Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him
”!

REFLECTION

As I’ve pondered this psalm this week I have been amazed again at the unity of God’s Word, of that scarlet thread that runs through it pointing to Christ. David, many years before Jesus, knew God’s forgiveness, knew the joy and blessedness of grace and mercy. We, this side of the cross, understand more of “how” it works, but we can learn so much from this psalm.

What gets in the way of our coming to God for forgiveness, of knowing the safety of His love and care, of making Him our hiding place?

According to this psalm it is guile or self-deceit (2b). As I read this, I John 1: 8-9 came to mind: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” So in both the Old and New Testaments we are told that self-deception is at the root of not admitting our sin.

Perhaps we think we are good enough on our own to come to God. We don’t think we’re really such bad sinners. Perhaps sometimes we think of sin as simply as something we do, when sin really is given birth in our thoughts and attitudes. When I don’t measure up to the standard that God sets, I sin. When I don’t believe God, I sin.

Probably most of you knew you couldn't measure up to God's standard and came to Him for forgiveness when you trusted in Jesus' death for you. But I think often we need to be reminded that as we initially came to God in humility, so we continue in Him in humility.

Have you ever struggled with admitting your sin? I have. I have lain in bed at night rationalizing and justifying something (deceiving myself). I have fumed to myself during the daytime, “But I have a right to….” or “It’s not fair…” or “How can that be so bad?” I’ve compared myself with those I see around me rather the plumb line of God’s word. And verses 3 – 4 give an apt picture of how I felt: drained, preoccupied, dried up, weighted down. It’s hard work to rationalize sin.

It’s not complicated to be forgiven; all I need to do is ask God. But the asking sometimes comes through struggle: humility and a willingness to admit that I am not sufficient in myself to come to God. It takes an honest, hard look my heart, at what rears itself up in front of God.

What did David do? He was honest. He admitted his sin to God and laid it out in the open for God to see. He confessed his transgression to the Lord.

And he was forgiven!!

What relief and comfort follow confession. God is now our safe place. Even in the midst of trouble (of a flood!) we are safe in Him.

When we are forgiven, when we keep short accounts with God – He promises to teach us, “to guide us with His eye.” Like David, I long to be easily guided. I don’t want to balk against the way God has chosen for me. I don’t want to hang onto my own way, my own “rights” and be difficult to lead.

I want to trust the Lord and be surrounded by His lovingkindness. I want to experience the joy that comes through resting in His righteousness.

What about you?

"Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven. Behold the man who is blessed; blessed in the state of his mind, his guileless spirit, his contrite heart, the fruit of the spirit of grace; blessed in the forgiveness of a forgiving God; a forgiveness, perfect, entire, lacking nothing, signified by sin "covered," "iniquity not imputed" of the Lord; blessed in the blessings which followed it. Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Beneath the hollow of that hand which was once so heavy upon me, I can now repose. Thou art my hiding place, I dread thee no more; nay, I dwell in thee as my habitation, and my high tower, my covert, my safety, my house. Safe in thy love, whatever trouble may be my portion….” James Harrington Evans, M.A., 1785-1849.

APPLICATION

Take some time to read through this psalm meditatively and with honest reflection. Are you coming to the Lord in the deceit of self-sufficiency? Are you rationalizing some sinful attitude or action? If so, open your heart before the Lord and ask His forgiveness.

Then know that you are hidden in Him, surrounded by His mercy and lovingkindness! Experience the joy of resting in the righteousness that comes from grace.

PRAYER

Thank-you, Father, that You gave your Son so that we could be forgiven. Help us not to trample that gift with the prideful deceit that we are good enough on our own to approach You. Help us to be honest with ourselves and You about our hearts, to admit our sin openly and humbly to You, asking Your forgiveness. Thank-you for the joy and rest that we find in You in forgiveness!