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When a Command isn’t just Law…


20170124_103703Devotional Thought of the Day:

73 You created me, and you keep me safe; give me understanding, so that I may learn your laws. 74 Those who honour you will be glad when they see me, because I trust in your promise. 75 I know that your judgements are righteous, LORD, and that you punished me because you are faithful. 76 Let your constant love comfort me, as you have promised me, your servant.  GNT Psalm 119:73-76

God “commanded” the world into existence (Ps 33:9; Isa 45:12). All creatures and elements therefore obey his command (cf. I Kgs 17:4; Job 37:12; Ps 78:23). God also directs the course of history by decreeing crucial events; indeed no determinative event happens without God’s ordaining it (Lam 3:37). Indeed he decrees that his people be victorious (Ps 44:4 [H 5]).
What God commands to be done, he provides the means to accomplish, e.g. he instructed Moses concerning the building of the cultic furniture and buildings; then he inspired Bezalel and Oholiab with the Spirit of wisdom to be able to accomplish the work (Ex 31:2–6; 35:30–36:1). Regarding the making of these objects the text first details the instructions and then describes Israel’s careful fulfillment of God’s commandment (Ex 25–30; 36–39; Lev 8; cf. Ex 39:5, 7, 32, 42f.).

Over the last year and a half, one of my Bible Studies has been slowly working through Psalm 119.  Over and over it talks about the joy that is found in the law of God, in His commands, in His directives, in His ordinances!

The challenge is that we Lutherans tend see this only as Law – the commands that we cannot hope to keep, and therefore find ourselves. condemned.  My old denomination as well had this problem, as it divided the covenants of God into Law and Promises.

We hear Law, we head commandment, we hear precept and our mind automatically goes into “theology mode”.  This is God’s command, we have to fear when we hear it because we cannot hope to meet its demands, it will only point out our sin.

But that is not how the Psalmist continually refers to God’s law in Psalm 119, and in most of the Psalms.  It is a delight, a joy, something that grabs our attention and holds it, breathes life into us!  It inspires and empowers us.

It is not just what we refer to as the terms of the covenant, or the law which we properly distinguish from gospel. It is the entire Covenant, the law and gospel complete and in perfect tension.  The entirety of theology, the word of God complete.  Our need for salvation, His saving us at the cross of Christ.

As the apostle Paul put it so beautifully,

3  Let us give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! For in our union with Christ he has blessed us by giving us every spiritual blessing in the heavenly world. 4  Even before the world was made, God had already chosen us to be his through our union with Christ, so that we would be holy and without fault before him. Because of his love 5  God had already decided that through Jesus Christ he would make us his children—this was his pleasure and purpose.” Ephesians 1:3-5 (TEV)

This is what God tells us He established by His very commands from the beginning.  It is His reason, His word, it is Christ’s pleasure and purpose, as well as the Father’s and the Holy Spirits.

The quote in blue, for the word law in the psalm quote, coems from a Hebrew Lexicon.  It states it well, what He commanded, He establishes the means to accomplish, indeed the entire Trinity is invested in making it come to pass.

For us, so that we could be His people, His children, so that we would know Him as our God, our benevolent, loving, caring, comforting Father.  So He has commanded this to be, and so it is!

Let that bring you great peace, great joy!  What God has established, ordained, commanded, made His law is now.  You are His.  AMEN!

Hartley, John E. “1887 צָוָה.” Ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament 1999 : 757. Print.

 

Do we understand the depth of forgiveness?


Lord's Prayer in greek in the Pater Noster Cha...

Lord’s Prayer in greek in the Pater Noster Chapel in Jerusalem (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

devotional thought of the day…..

8  The LORD is merciful and loving, slow to become angry and full of constant love. 9  He does not keep on rebuking; he is not angry forever. 10  He does not punish us as we deserve or repay us according to our sins and wrongs. 11  As high as the sky is above the earth, so great is his love for those who honor him. 12  As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our sins from us. 13  As a father is kind to his children, so the LORD is kind to those who honor him. 14  He knows what we are made of; he remembers that we are dust.    Psalm 103:8-14 (TEV) 

Don’t think any more about your fall. Besides overwhelming and crushing you under its weight, that recollection may easily be an occasion of future temptation. Christ has forgiven you! Forget the “old man”—your former self. (1)

It has been said that those that don’t learn from the past are condemned to repeat it.

While not scriptural, there are many areas that it is true, though sometimes you have to spin it.. just a little.

Dealing with sin, we find that it needs a bit more spinning.  For what we are to remember is not the sin, nor the shame.  God remembers none, once He has cleansed us of it.  Those actions, words, thoughts, or lack of action and words have no power over us.  It is broken. God’s love shatters that link between our hearts and the sin – and they are separated  as far as the east as is from the West.  The prodigal is no longer away… you and I have come home.  The Father has welcomed us, as our elder brother has come and brought us home.  There is no reason for grieving over the past – as the psalmist rejoiced – God remembers how He made us, and that He knew we would need to be cleansed and healed..

And that is what we must remember – the “welcome home” feast.  The Father’s hug!  The celebration!

That is the lesson we need to learn from the past – the forgiveness, the mercy, the joy of our Father – the work of God in our lives.

Don’t dwell on your past sins – but rather rejoice in the reconciliation that has come to be our reality, on the work of God that enables us to be welcomed into His presence, on the joy on His face, as we stand before Him.

So learn from your past…. learn the power of His love and mercy… and when the time comes… show that Godly mercy and love to those that sin against you.

 

 

(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 693-695). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

How Important is our Salvation?


English: Resurrection of Christ

English: Resurrection of Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How Important is our Salvation?

Psalm 30

 Jesus, Son and Savior

May we realize how precious this love and mercy is, which we have been given by God our Father, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ!

 

What Changes Men
In the gospel reading this morning, and in the one from Acts, we have too long narratives, the stories of the conversion of Paul, and the renewal of Peter.

Amazing stories – as men who struggled with God, find themselves, and the healing of a relationship that no one would have ever thought possible, heck most of us wouldn’t even think they had a chance of making up for what they did.

The man who murdered and imprisoned believers… and the man who, when given a chance to confess his friendship, his relationship with Christ, betrayed him…not just once – but three times.

And they were changed, their lives, as Paul would write to Titus, were re-vitalized – quickened – born again – and renewed.  Everything changed in a flash of light, in a moment, as the darkness they dwelled in, was dispelled by the love of Christ, by His mercy, by His presence and comfort in their lives.

Such a great salvation, such a great deliverance and rescue of their hearts and minds. How sad would it have been, if they had just dismissed it, and went about their daily business, as if nothing had happened.

Such is the experience of David as well, the one who wrote our other reading, Psalm 30. A Psalm whose words describe this incredible work of God, as God saves David, as God brings healing to David’s wounds, as God restores him…

As God has promised to do in our lives, as indeed He is doing.

Sing Praise – Remember what the Holy One Has done, and give thanks!

David starts the Psalm out in such an upbeat manner – he’s seen God’s had at work, freeing him from what oppressed him, freeing him what is against him.  No one can point out David’s shame, no one can gloat over the situation he has found himself in, God has rescued him from the situation.  He hasn’t just been revitalized – he has been completely renewed  – as He himself testifies to in verse 2 –

“I cried to you for help, O Lord my God, and YOU healed me!”

He was healed, He was delivered, saved, everything changed – life changed, it began anew – David was given a new life!  In verse three, we see that, for David thought his life was heading for the death and hell.  God restored David’s life, – we call it being “born again’ these days, and it was brand new.  A life unmarked by the strife, by the sin, but dwelling secured and safe.

Of the ways David describes God’s delivering him, my favorite is found in verse 4, as we  worship Him – remembering what He did, and giving Him thanks.  For those words are the ones we find – even as we will hear in a few moments – as we hear Christ’s words about the true nature of the bread and wine, the Body and Blood. Echo His praises, give thanks, and when you do this.. remember me.  Know me, Know intimately my presence, my love, my promises, my presence – know me.

David understood the way that God works, even as he points to the day of the feast – of the celebration of God’s goodness!

So with Jesus, let us give thanks – and we comprehend, as we remember He is here….

not quite yet… for David reveals something next…that is shocking… for its clarity.

But what about the terrifying days…when we don’t see God?

King David a number of his times experiences the trauma that he describes in verse five to seven.  They aren’t part of his life before God revealed his love to him, but were very much a part of his life as a believer, as one who trusted in God – who walked with the Lord and was given the ability to address God by His name, Yahweh, the IAM.

Hear again verse 5-7

5  His anger lasts only a moment, his goodness for a lifetime. Tears may flow in the night, but joy comes in the morning. 6  I felt secure and said to myself, “I will never be defeated.” 7  You were good to me, LORD; you protected me like a mountain fortress. But then you hid yourself from me, and I was afraid.

There is a famous, probably in the history of the United States, entitled, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” by Jonathan Edwards.  Having known God’s love, having known how He delivers those He loves, those who trust in Him, it is not being in God’s presence that scares the life out of me, it is when I think God has abandoned me, when He has looked away.  That is when the tears – can last through the night, when sleep fails, when as David says – “I was terrified”.

O, how my anxiety soars, when I’ve lost sight of the fact that God has me, not just in His sight, but in His son,  We can, we indeed do walk with God through just about anything.  I can look around this sanctuary and see incredible saints, who have walked with God through incredible challenges.  Yet it is the times, where we aren’t sure God is with us, that drive us to despair, that rob us of the life God’s given us. Or at least Satan would like us to think that God has abandoned us, that God has forsaken us…

That’s when we play games like David mentions. Our version goes like this. “Hey God – remember me?  I’m the one you saved so I could worship you – do you want all your hard work to go to waste?  Who’s going to go out and save the world?  Who’s going to teach my grandkids about you, Lord?  or make sure this place stays open to proclaim your faithfulness.”

It is in the darkness of night, the sleepless night that we ask those kinds of questions.  Forgetting that God can raise up the rocks to praise Him.  It is when we get what it must have been like for Peter… why he had to run to the tomb, and why it took a few weeks to sink in,  Until Jesus took him on a walk along a beach and reminded him… I am with you… and reminded Peter that Peter knew this – because Peter loved him!

Hear me – o wait… you did!

That is why there is such a quick transition from the whining of David, into the rejoicing.  He remembers…well what He was supposed to remember – that God has changed everything.

From the mourning that exists in the depth of your soul, the grief that causes those tears to last all night, into the joyous dance that comes as dawn breaks – that joy that comes as we hear God’s joyous cry of jubilation!  That’s the reason we dance – that is why we are changed from clothes of mourning, into that fit for a celebration, a time of great praise –

Because God commanded – everything is restored, everything is renewed, life is given!

I love how a pastor 15 centuries ago described this psalm,

John tells us most fully how and when this appearance took place. But the Lord rose in the morning from the sepulchre in which He had been laid in the evening, that those words of the Psalm might be fulfilled, Heaviness may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. (Ps. 30:5)[i]

It is that moment – the moment of the stone being rolled away, the empty tomb, the cry He is Risen, that we need to comprehend – for it was then our salvation was made sure – it was not just a guarantee – it was real.
That tomb – it is …

That means Praise God – He is risen!
and that means – The Lord is …
and if the Son has set you free – you are free

So rejoice – praise Him, glorify Him, never be quiet – always know, even when you don’t feel it, that you dwell in His undescribable peace…

For He keeps you there… your heart, your mind… AMEN!

 


[i] Thomas Aquinas, S., & Newman, J. H. (1842). Catena Aurea: Commentary on the Four Gospels, Collected out of the Works of the Fathers, Volume 2: St. Mark (340). Oxford: John Henry Parker.

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