Archive for May, 2010

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A Christian’s Comfort in the Psalms…

May 6, 2010

“How Long O Lord?”[1] This tragic plea is pregnant with many contradictions and truths.  Four words cried out in apparent abandonment by David; the context in which they were spoken has long since passed into irrelevance.  What remains is clear: the speaker believed in a Lord, one who reigned and had the power to respond to such a plea.  The speaker was also in apparent duress, to the point of death, where his heart was plagued all day long and his enemy was exalted over him.  Still he cries to a God of steadfast love (hesed), whose sure salvation is a matter for rejoicing.  The rub is this; if there is a God of Salvation, steadfast love and deliverance then why are those attributes absent from the psalmist’s life?  This is the quandary that attracts people of diverse backgrounds to the Psalter.

The Psalms are in part, an artistic historical effort to confront, lament and conquer evil through song.  The product of many authors, they express “the emotions, personal feelings, attitudes, gratitude, and interests…of the individual.”[2] The Psalms are “a rich treasure house of reflection on evil and what God does with it.”[3] Across generations, nations and religions whether Christian, Jewish, or secular when confronted with evil, “universally people have identified their lot with the psalmist.”[4] There is a truth within the poet’s lyric that draws all those seeking comfort.  Such comfort is often hidden however in the face of mounting evil and threat.  So from what and from where is comfort to be found?

The Psalms from the outset present a dichotomy which is key to finding true and lasting comfort in God.  Beginning with Psalm 1 we are told that there is good and that there is evil. There are those who walk in evil, they perish.  There are those who pursue both the good and God, they endure.  When evil appears to advance in the face of God’s covenant promises the psalmists lament and appeal to God’s steadfast love or hesed (the full nature of which we will address later on.)  When Evil is on the run and the psalmist’s enemies are put to an end, God is praised for displaying his steadfast love.  Encouragement throughout the psalms is found by recalling times when God prevailed against evil; and great hope is conveyed by claiming the promise that God will ultimately defeat this raging evil and claim eternal victory through His anointed King.

These promises explode on the evangelical mind in a way that far exceeds the poetic comfort sought and found by the secular world in these reassuring verses.  Each Psalm hammers away at the nonsensical problem of Evil that so plagues the child of God.  Why do the wicked seem to advance and the righteous suffer?  Will there be an end to this suffering?  In the darkest times of evil’s ascendency will God and His chosen prevail?   These questions pepper the minds of God’s children across the persecuted church.  We find it difficult to uncover the face of the Almighty in the problem of apparent injustice.  The Psalms, offered to us, chisel away at the slab of unanswered questions and slowly an image begins to emerge.  As the dust settles we see a hewn tree, a suffering shepherd and the dashed head of evil stamped out by a love which endures forever.  This is a Christian’s comfort in the Psalms.

(This post is an excerpt from another larger work… currently in progress)


[1] Psalm 13:1 in its entirety reads, “ How long O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?”

[2] Schultz, Samuel J. The Old Testament Speaks: A complete survey of Old Testament history and literature. (New York, NY Harper Collins, 2000) 286.

[3] Wright, N.T. Evil and the Justice of God. ( Downers Grove, IL IVP, 2006) 60.

[4] Schultz, 286.

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Hope and Fear Revealed…

May 4, 2010

Revelation 19-22.

Out of all the chapters in the Bible these three are, for me, the most awe inspiring and frightening.  My fright does not come from any fear of abandonment or uncertainty quite the opposite.  These passages inspire a fear of God, a healthy fear, one we are far too reticent to embrace today.  There is so much packed into these passages, theologically speaking, that it is safe to say no two groups have found agreement on their total meaning.  And I must be honest in saying that my speculation as to “the end” spelled out in these chapters is just that, speculation, marred by a fallen mind.  So I leave these chapters with two primary thoughts; one fear and one hope.

My fear.  The pervasive all encompassing nature of God’s Holy Glory.  Throughout these chapters, verse by verse, we are confronted with God’s un-yielding holiness.  We know the song that we will sing eternally, from previous chapters and from Isaiah “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”(Rev 4:8)  This song is made manifest in God’s actions throughout 19-22; God will judge completely the whole of heaven and earth and the armies of Heaven WILL bring recompense against the wicked.  The birds will gorge on the flesh of the wicked, on the beast and the false prophet, and Satan himself will be cast into everlasting seperation from all that is good.  Those who are not chosen, separated out and made holy by Christ, finding their names absent in the book of life; WILL be cast into the lake of fire.  These ends and these judgments are certain, they WILL happen and they should inspire us to warn others of what will come.  We must tell others that while God’s judgement is certain, so too is His grace to save all who call on His name.

My Hope.  One of the most touching verses in all of Scripture is found in Revelation 21:5, “and he who sat upon the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’”  Thanks be to God that this phrase is true; that it has been true throughout history; and that it will be true for all of eternity.  Where would I be if not a new creation in Christ?  What hope is found in the truth that He who made the world; who will judge the world to utter destruction; shall once again remake the world, heavens and earth to and for his glory.  And from that glory this new creation shall never pass.  Darkness will perish and night shall be no more, God will be the light and all of us found in Him shall reign with Him forever.  I and all of this creation yearn for that which will be made new for His glory; that I may enjoy Him forever and sing Hallelujah to Him who called me out of darkness and into His marvelous light.

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Two is the Loneliest Number

May 2, 2010

Ephesians 2:113:13

How soon we forget.  God has so wisely designed our bodies, each part performs a function, each part is necessary.  His body of the church has likewise been designed with a care and function which ultimately, if guided properly serves to give Him Glory.  Paul’s ministry to Ephesus brought God glory and brings us valuable and necessary encouragement and instruction.  Once we enter the body we must not forget the means by which we entered.  Paul repeatedly, in this passage calls the Ephesians and by extension each of us to remember.  Remember that one time “you were gentiles” (11); remember that one time you were “separated from Christ”(12).  In true Pauline fashion though, he follows these reminders of separation and alienation with his famous “but now.”  Now we the gentiles have been brought near through Christ, and have been joined into one new man literally, “in the place of two.”(15)  This unity of body is marked by three characteristics.

The first is peace.  Once God has joined us both Jew and gentile together into one body through the cross, the hostilities which marked their separation should cease.  This peace was preached to those who were far off and to those who were near; strangers and sojourners alike.  Now all are granted access through the Spirit into God’s household.

The second characteristic is worship.  This far-flung group is being gathered and joined for a function.  The new believers will add to the foundation of a structure begun by the apostles and prophets of which Christ Jesus is the cornerstone.  Peter uses this metaphor to great effect in his first epistle in chapter two; that we are in fact living stones, being built up, a royal priesthood, a chosen race.  Here Paul proclaims that this structure is a Holy Temple, and all those in Christ are built into this structure which will serve as “a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”(2:22)

The third characteristic is action.  Jesus’ gospel, “the mystery” made known to Paul by revelation, must be proclaimed to all, both Jews and Gentiles.  So Paul models the message that there has been a plan, a mystery hidden for ages that man must now be made aware.  God revealed that mystery in Christ and it is by God’s grace that Paul and all of us in Jesus, can preach the unsearchable riches of Christ.

Recognizing that these characteristics are part of God’s eternal plan, should encourage us to both seize hold of the promises God places before us; and take heart when misfortune falls on us as it did Paul.  For though he suffered for the Ephesians the message and hope of Christ pressed on; the structure continued to grow; for increase of our faith and for God’s glory.