Bible Reading Blog

Bible Reading Blog

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More Than Conquerors

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

BIBLE READING: Psalm 44

“...for your sake we are killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered. Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever!” (Psalm 44.22-23)

Although the psalmist’s distress presents physically, his struggle is in the mind and spirit. What he believes about God appears incongruent with present circumstances. As God is his witness (Psalm 44.20-21) he has not forgotten the covenant (Psalm 44.17-18), and yet there appears to be a failure in God’s response to his suffering (Psalm 44.24-25).

In the OT, many of God’s promises were manifest in physical protection for his people (see Deuteronomy 33.29). In fact, this psalmist has not only heard of God’s actions (Psalm 44.1-3), but even experienced His salvation among God’s people (Psalm 44.4-8). It seemed fitting that God should do nothing but bless those who claim his name (Psalm 44.8). But instead God seems to have rejected these people (Psalm 44.9-16).

As the psalmist holds onto hope, he pleads for salvation and redemption (Psalm 44.23, 26). In this context, we are not given the immediate outcome of the psalmist’s situation; but God does not leave this as a loose end. Paul applies this psalm as he speaks of God’s ultimate vindication for the righteous.

“...If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? ... Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (cf. Romans 8.31-37)

The suffering remains, but notice there is now a clear source of vindication in Christ. He is the hope in the struggle because, in him, one remains connected to God regardless of physical circumstances. Where the psalmist felt abandoned, believers today should feel confident that God has overcome the struggles of the world (John 16.33)

Suffering has always been a practicality for the believer (2 Timothy 3.12; 1 Peter 5.10), but so has dependence on God (Proverbs 3.5-6). These work together to mature our faith and spiritual focus (James 1.2-4, 12). Like this psalmist, there are times which appear bleak for believers; but God’s promise is never simply for the present. It is through these sufferings and for His sake, God will vindicate those who are faithful to him, in Christ (Psalm 44.17; Hebrews 11.6; 2 Peter 1.10).

Believers must live with this big-picture perspective. We must look back to what God has done (Romans 15.4) and consider our present circumstances in light of what God has promised will be (2 Peter 3.9-13) with the understanding that God’s work in our life is not finished in our present condition (Romans 8.19-25).

“Let us hold fast our confession of hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10.23)

We Are Not God

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

BIBLE READING: Job 20-21

“…the exulting of the wicked is short, and the joy of the godless but for a moment… The heavens will reveal his iniquity, and the earth will rise up against him… This is the wicked man’s portion from God, the heritage decreed for him by God.” (Job 20.5, 27, 29)

In observing the conversation between Job and his friends, it can be difficult to distinguish between righteousness and human rationale. Job’s friends offer some compelling arguments and there are times when Job appears pretentious in defense of his righteousness. 

If you’re like me, you may relate to how Job’s friends approach the situation. If things aren’t going well, we encourage people to make changes because what they’re doing isn’t working and God isn’t the one who is changing (Malachi 3.6). While these thoughts have some merit, there are a couple of things we must remember:

1. No one really knows “why” anything is happening. It seems fair to affirm God’s judgment upon the wicked, because there is a degree to which this will be true (Psalm 1.5; 75.10; Ecclesiastes 3.17). However, God’s judgment is promised as ultimate and final, meaning it may not be realized in this life. Wisdom teaches sometimes the righteous suffer and the wicked prosper (Psalm 73.12-14; Job 21.7-ff), and that time and chance happen to all (Ecclesiastes 9.11). To assert that Job is suffering for his choices is to make judgments in a place where God had not completely revealed himself. We can fairly assert what we know about God, but to presume we know his purposes and rationale is a step too far (Job 42.7-8).

2. We need to be cautious how we represent God. To definitively state God’s purposes communicates that we know all that God knows. As well-meaning as it may be, this is an affront to God. The sovereign purposes and infinite nature of God cannot be defined by our feeble human mind. We can only know what God has revealed about himself and his will. It is his place to assert judgment. It is his character and prerogative that defines what is and what is not.

This doesn’t negate conviction or assertion of godly principles, but we must do it with humility and grace. We are not God. “…we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8.28). We will never be exactly where someone else is in terms of faith and understanding. We know that God allows what he wills to shape and enlighten us, if we are willing. And so, let us humbly affirm God’s sovereignty so that we too may receive mercy and find grace to help in our time of need (Hebrews 4.16).

“Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.” (Romans 12. 16)

Make Me Know My End

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

BIBLE READING: Psalm 39

“Oh LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am.” (Psalm 39.4)

If you knew you would die tomorrow, you would live very differently today. But what if that date were a month from now? What about a year from now? To be faced with the eminent nature of that date would certainly affect our behavior; but the longer it is pushed out, the less concerned we tend to be. 

The central concern of the psalm is that we ought to think about our end. We each have a single, short time on this earth. We will experience many things in this life (Ecclesiastes 3), but the daily ebbs and flows of life (which are legitimate in themselves) cannot become magnified into the meaning of life itself. We must think soberly about death because it dictates the trajectory of our life. To ignore this reality, sets us up for regret and failure. Life as we know it will end... Then what? The bible offers glimpses into the afterlife, and it’s all in the hands of our Creator.

Certain life circumstances bring this into focus: a debilitating illness… social and political unrest… the death of a close friend or family member. David appears to be in-tune with life’s brevity due to negative events in his own life (see Psalm 39.10-11). But in his musing, David’s heart burned for something greater than this life. “…I am a sojourner with you, a guest, like all my fathers.” (Psalm 39.12b)

Like David, we know there is an end for all of us. But David’s plea God was not for information, but personalization. Knowing our end ought to prompt a response in the present. It challenges us to ask, “what should I do with this life I have been given?” A clear understanding of life’s transience prompts changed behavior to make the best use of the remaining time (Ephesians 5.16-17).

Given what we know, this is the only wise and appropriate perspective to life. Peter Craigie wrote, “It is healthy… to combine an awareness of the transitory nature of human life as a whole, with the wisdom that ‘sufficient for the day is the evil thereof,’ … [it] is a starting point in achieving the sanity of a pilgrim in an otherwise mad world.” 

Generations have come and gone from this world, and we will all join them some day. Life’s vanity reminds us of eternity. But we must not become callous and comfortable as we endure (Ephesians 4.17-19). We are stewards of the time we have and must give an account to God. If you know you are going to die, how are you using the time you know you have left? 

“…you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4.14-15)

Who Is Too Strong For Him?

Monday, June 29, 2020

BIBLE READING: Psalm 35

“…O LORD, who is like you, delivering the poor from him who is too strong for him, the poor and needy from him who robs him?” (Psalm 35.10)

David was a successful man of war (1 Samuel 18.7), and yet he unashamedly cries to God for help. It is rare to see a man of his position with such a low view of himself (compare with Goliath in 1 Samuel 17.8-10; 42-47). Valient men are often preceded by pride and pretense. 

But David was “a man after God's own heart” (Acts 13.22), which meant he didn’t allow his foolish pride to dominate or drive him to despair. David learned early on it was God who fought and won his battles, so he made no pretense of his own greatness (1 Samuel 17.45-47; Psalm 35.10). Instead, he habitually humbled himself to God’s power and sovereignty. He knew it was only with God and through God that he would defeat his enemies and find lasting success. 

In our spiritual warfare, we sometimes forget it is God who fights and is victorious for us (Romans 8.31-39; 1 Corinthians 15.57; Ephesians 6.10). We may be able to confront temptation and sin with our best efforts; but our “success” will always be short-lived. I'm not saying we don't have to show up for the battle, but our 10 steps to success are not what allows us to overcome sin and temptation. It is only through the power of God, through the Spirit of God and the blood of Jesus that we overcome the evil we face in this world (Ephesians 6.10; Philippians 4.13). 

God has revealed that our battles are not against flesh and blood but against unseen forces that cause stress, tension and conflict (Ephesians 6.12). We need to acknowledge that the challenges we face at work, at home and in our relationships are the result of Satan’s manipulation and lies. He wants you to look at your coworker, spouse, children or whomever it might be and see them as the enemy, instead of engaging your issues on a spiritual level. 

Naturally we don't think this way. If we truly believed God to be the Creator and Sustainer of this world and our lives, we would immediately humble ourselves in desperate appeal for his vindication and help. Every. Single. Moment. If you choose to fight your battles alone, see how far you can get, and tap God when you’re tapped out, you’re not trusting God—you’re letting God know you don’t need him.

We will face challenges that are too much and too strong for us, and on our own, we will succumb to sin. But we are not without help or hope. “God is a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46.1) and we can “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power” (Ephesians 6.10-11). Like David, we need to trust God and use the tools he has given us to reconcile difficult situations and restore relationship. But above all, we must be humble enough to accept that we need him. 

“…my soul will rejoice in the LORD, exulting in his salvation.” (Psalm 35.9)

We Are Created

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

BIBLE READING: Psalm 33

“By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host. He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap; he puts the deeps in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.” (Psalm 33.6-9)

Evolution, agnosticism and other forms of philosophy offer compelling ways of thought. They appeal to curious thinkers because they offer a self-guided path without definite truths, allowing “freedom” of thought and action. To accept that there is a Creator immediately puts one in a position of subjection, which largely does not appeal to an individualistic society. Fewer and fewer people accept these truths as more than a story in an old book. Even Christianity has become diluted at times by cultural philosophy (Colossians 2.8). 

And so, we must regularly rehearse and engage this fundamental truth: “In the beginning, God created…” (Genesis 1.1). It is foundational to our entire Christian belief system. “whoever would come to God must believe that he exists…” (Hebrews 11.6).

Our faith is predicated on God as THE Creator. There are not multiple forces at work in this reality. We, and our world, are not some accidental science experiment from a random universe. It was designed with pattern, power and precision. Everything we see, and everything we are, were made with intentionality and purpose.

The evidence of a Creator is revealed in our world, a fact we would be foolish to ignore (2 Peter 3.5). God gave a witness both in his design and in his word (Psalm 19.1-6). Honesty stripped of pretense must follow logic to this conclusion: By his word, all things were made from nothing (Psalm 33.6; Hebrews 11.3). 

If this is so, we must not only fear him, but we must subject ourselves to his will and purposes. He fashions and inspects all of creation (Psalm 33.15). He expects it to respond in the way he designed it (Job 9.3-12; Psalm 19.1-6). To live thoughtless of this fact is to ignore the most fundamental premise of our reality. We are created beings who are subject to our Creator (Colossians 1.16). 

Ultimate purpose and fulfillment are realized by utter submission to him. This is highly unpopular and even presents an affront to human ingenuity; but it is reality. We are made in His image (Genesis 1.27), not the other way around. Thus, we must be diligent to learn his ways, and take seriously the patterns he sets forth. To know these things is to know life and purpose and joy (John 17.3; Romans 15.13). 

“…from where he sits enthroned he looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth… Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love.” (Psalm 33.14, 18)

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