Bible Reading Blog

Bible Reading Blog

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With You There is Forgiveness

Friday, January 22, 2021

BIBLE READING: Psalm 130

“If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.” (Psalm 130.3-4)

In a dramatic scene from “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”, the White Witch charged Edmund with being a traitor. Although contrite about his choices, the charges were true. The witch vehemently accused Edmund before Aslan, the true king of the people, whom all the people expected to come to the defense of Edmund. But in this moment his demeanor changed, and he acknowledged that she was right. Everyone was stunned; but instead of releasing Edmund to the witch, Aslan spoke to her, and privately arranged a deal for Edmund’s justification. As the witch left the camp, Edmund breathed a sigh of relief and the crowd erupted in cheers for Aslan. Little did they know what it would cost.

Late in the evening, when everyone was asleep Aslan surrendered himself to the White Witch. He had agreed to pay the price for the young man’s choices, with his own life. With sinister pleasure the witch and her cohorts murdered Aslan. As Edmund’s sisters watched in horror, all they could ask is, “Why?”

This story depicts the consequences of sin. Regardless of how insignificant they are to us, sins require reparation. The bible centers our attention on this serious reality: “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6.23); “the soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18.20); “all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory” (Romans 3.23). We may not fully understand why this is so, but the reality of these truths remind us that sin has eternal consequences which we cannot overcome. If God were to hold us accountable, we would all be condemned because God is just.

But that is not the extent of God’s character, and that is not the end of the story. In his great mercy, Jesus bore our sins and paid the price. The result is that every legal demand and right Satan has on us through sin has been paid (Colossians 2.14).

In the novel’s climax, Aslan revives, overcoming death and evil. The Witch and her powers had no right over him because there was nothing of which to accuse him. In the same way, Jesus Christ, could not be overcome by the forces of evil. Jesus boldly proclaimed “[Satan] has no claim on me!” (John 14.30). This, my friends, is good news for everyone.

But to appreciate the choices of Jesus, we must first walk in the shoes of Edmund: convicted, condemned, and at the mercy of someone greater than us. We are hopeless. But God in his great love, could not bear to let us remain that way (Ephesians 2.4). Inexplicably, God’s desire is for our salvation, even so that he would take our place to make it happen (John 3.16; 2 Peter 3.9). As we look upon the horror of Jesus’ death, we may also ask, “Why?” The psalmist tells us: “with you there is forgiveness that you may be feared” (Psalm 130.3).

God’s actions of love should bewilder us, but it is clear what he wants. He is a God to be feared, followed and honored with our thanksgiving. In Christ, he is "merciful and will remember our sins no more" (Hebrews 8.12). And so, let us “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12.13).

“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15.56-58)

Lift Up Your Eyes

Monday, January 18, 2021

BIBLE READING: Psalm 121

“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121.1-2)

The attitude of our face and direction of our eyes communicates a lot: Where we’re going. What we’re trying to accomplish. What is important to us. Who we’re looking at for help. 

Looking down naturally limits what we can know and see. We often put our head down to minimize distractions. It allows us to get focused on the task and hand what we need to do to get’ur done. We also look down when we’re discouraged. We don’t want to face the things in front of us. We’re ashamed of our failures. We’re just tired of trying. But when we look up, we not only see reality, but other options for help. 

My girls both grab my pants and look up when they want something. They know I’m bigger than them and can do more. I can reach things they can’t. I can see things they can’t see. I can lift them up to places they want to go.

The psalmist lifts up his eyes in longing and hope for God’s help. He is the Maker of heaven and earth (Psalm 121.2), who doesn’t sleep or slumber (Psalm 121.4). He keeps his people secure and grounded (Psalm 121.57). Although the psalmist appears helpless, he looks up to God and recounts the confidence of his power. God will not fail him. 

There are many people and things to which we can look to these days. The clamor in our world right now is relentless and draws our eyes to things going on around us. The drama of injustice, politics, social issues, etc. are constant and pressing. If we look around us, all we will find is brokenness and despair. We know that as long as this world is governed by men it is subject to their fickle, self-seeking passions; and yet we often look to these people to offer us a better future. The reality is none of them will give us hope or help. 

Brethren, we must not expect the rulers of this world to look out for our interests or give us hope. Only God can truly do that. And so, let us lift up our eyes. Not to Capitol Hill but to the king God has established on his holy hill (Psalm 2.6). He is bigger, greater, stronger and in control of all things. He can see more than we can. He can do far more than we could ask or think or even ask (Ephesians 3.20-21). But more importantly, he can offer true hope, peace and security. Like children looking to their Father, let’s run to him during these turbulent times. We trust in the name and promises of the LORD. Quit looking down and look up.

“Set your minds on things above and not on things below.” (Colossians 3.2)

What is Truth?

Thursday, January 07, 2021

BIBLE READING: Psalm 119.153-160 (RESH)

“The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.” (Psalm 119.160)

We live in a world where “truth” is regarded subjectively. The “Speak Your Truth” movement popularized by Oprah Winfrey attests to the prideful way many contextualize information. “If it makes sense to me, it must be true.” The culture may call this “truth”, but it anything but that.

God’s word reveals that truth is an objective reality that can be known by all. “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth(John 17.17). As our verse today reminds us, truth emanates from God and what he has spoken. As Creator, he has authority over this world to define what is and is not.

As such, the Word of God and His law are not true simply in the sense that they are in accord with science, human nature, or some abstract ethical principle. The great confession given by Ezra after the Jews returned from bondage emphasized God's nature as “truth” in what He did in creation, election, redemption, and the giving of the law: You came down on Mount Sinai and spoke with them from heaven and gave them right rules and true laws, good statutes and commandments,  and you made known to them your holy Sabbath and commanded them commandments and statutes and a law by Moses your servant" (Nehemiah 9.13-14)

While our post-modern society echoes the proclamation of Pilate– “What is truth?” (John 18.38) – through faith we must attest that objective truth exists and is governed, embodied, and defined by God. Last year, we heard many things that were presented as true, but turned out to be false. We became keenly aware that “truth” from men is subject to the fickle nature of men. But behind all the twists of information and agendas lie an unalterable reality: Events occurred in a definite way. Choices were made with specific motives. We will never be able to untangle the deception Satan works in this world, but God can and does because he is truth (Hebrews 4.12-13).

God has been and always will be the origin of reality and truth. Therefore, to know God through his words brings reality and life (John 17.3-19). But more importantly it confronts us with choice. The truth of God is designed to be reflected in our lives. “Only fear the Lord and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you” (1 Samuel 12.24).

Our affirmation or rejection of truth does not change the fixture of what God has determined (Psalm 119.89). Jesus came to attest to this truth (John 18.37). As time continues, we see that “every word of God proves true…” (Proverbs 30.5). And so, let us remember that “man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4.4, cf. Deuteronomy 8.3).

“You will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8.31-32)

Teach Me

Tuesday, January 05, 2021

BIBLE READING: Psalm 119.33-40

“Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end.” (Psalm 119.33)

Our oldest child is becoming more and more independent. She doesn’t want help getting dressed or buckling her car seat. She wants to do it herself. Still there are times she needs help doing or understanding things. She knows the box opens but doesn’t know how to work the latch. She sees words on a page but doesn’t yet understand how to read them. She tugs on my arm and says, “Daddy, show me. Teach me.”

There is a hunger that children for have for learning with little pretense of what others think. As we age, we tend to lose this attitude. It morphs into, “I already know” or “I’ve got this”. We build barriers of self-sufficiency that not only impede learning but block other sources of reason and learning. This hardening robs us of vitality and growth, and positions us in the very narrow view of our own understanding. Given enough time this attitude infiltrates and damages our relationship with God.

A meditation of Psalm 119 is a good way to reset this attitude. The writer taps into this child-like hunger for understanding the best way – God’s way. This psalm emphasizes the sufficiency of God’s word to lead us to life; but we also learn much about the attitude we must have towards God's precepts. When the psalmist says, “teach me”, we see an attitude of…

  1. Desire. To do it right. To understand God's word reveals the best way to live. The writer has no pretense that he knows what is best. He is a blank page ready to be written on by God.
  2. Humility. There is no power struggle in his request. Whoever he is/was is irrelevant. He wants God to lead him in his ways, not his own! (Psalm 119.36)
  3. Dependence. He cannot walk this path with his own understanding. Each line of this section is a request for God’s revelation and work to give him life (Psalm 119.40).

These qualities not only produce growth but develop greater trust in God. Are these qualities we bring to our bible reading?

  • Do we want to know what is the best way or are we looking for a pat on the head? Rarely does the bible coddle us, but instead challenges us with change.
  • Are we willing to change, or have we decided we have it all figured out? We know, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4.6), but that means we don’t fight what he says is best. We need God’s word to affirm our strengths but also to address our most vulnerable areas.
  • Do we believe life is best doing it God’s way? His words lead us to peace, joy, hope… life! There are many ways that seem right to us that are not good (Proverbs 14.12 … how long will we walk that path before we truly depend on him?

My prayer is we will become like children in our understanding. Lord, teach me… show me…“Give me understanding that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart.” (Psalm 119.34)

What Men Reject, God Uses

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

BIBLE READING: Psalm 118

“The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.” (Psalm 118.22)

When Solomon’s temple was being built, the stones were prepared in an off-site quarry (1 Kings 6.7). What this meant for construction was that every 20-ton stone had predetermined specification for its exact spot in the temple. From the very start, there was a plan for each stone and where it would go. According to a rabbinic traditional parable, the stone originally cut for the cornerstone was rejected by the builders because it was oddly shaped. However, as the temple project neared completion, they realized that stone perfectly fit the place for which it was designed.

Whether or not this is historically accurate, it is an appropriate foreshadowing of Jesus’ ministry. He came by the predetermined plan of God; and yet the majority of Jews rejected him, including the devout religious leaders (Acts 2.23). He was not the piece they were looking for.

This prophecy emphasizes an important pattern we see in scripture: what men reject, God uses. Consider Stephen’s gospel sermon in Acts 7: Joseph and Moses were both rejected by their people, and yet both men went on to save their people. In the same way, Jesus was rejected by men; but it happened by God’s will to bring about salvation (Isaiah 53.10-11; Acts 7.51-53). The Jews refused to accept it… but it was true. They rejected Jesus but according to God’s predetermined plan, Jesus became the chief cornerstone.

Why did God do this? It clearly distinguishes the work of God and man. “This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes” (Psalm 118.23). In fact, the gospel emphasizes the transcendent working of God. We should have been rejected as worthless, but God, through Christ, allows us to be useful. This prophecy sets the precedent for how God would create salvation: by taking what is rejected and using it to create salvation.

"Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4.11-12). 

This prophecy of the rejected cornerstone is a reminder that we must not reject what God has determined. He has predestined us to life and adoption and eternal life; but it is not according to our plans or patterns (Ephesians 1). This means we must not overemphasize our human wisdom and logic (1 Corinthians 1.27-29). Instead, we must walk the path God has shown us through his word. We must press forward in faith, even though it may not seem right to you. God’s work and way will always transcend the bounds of what we see as best. And so, let’s not be wise in our own eyes, but accept the plans of God as he builds us into his house around Christ.

“As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house…” (1 Peter 2.4-5)

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