Psalm Eighteen (Part Three)

Psalm 18:4-6

The cords of death entangled me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me. The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears (NIV).

Next, David sang about the desperate situation from which the Lord had rescued him. We don’t know the tune to which these words were sung, but a minor key would have been a good choice. In this broken world there are many times that we will be melancholy and downcast. This is unpleasant. David was not ashamed to write about the dark times of his experience. He wanted his people to face cold, gloomy reality.

This is very unlike some of the songs I learned in Sunday School in my childhood. Here is a one: “I’m in right, out right, up right, down right, happy all the time. I’m in right, out right, up right, down right, happy all the time. Since Jesus Christ came in and cleansed my heart from sin, I’m in right, out right, up right, down right, happy all the time.” I assume that the teachers wanted Sunday School to be a warm, welcoming place. And after World War II, the Korean War, and during the Cold War, they themselves probably wanted to escape from the horrors of life. However, the song did not present an accurate view of life or what the Lord promised his people in their walk with him. The point is not to fill the hearts of children with terror, but it is to say what is accurate.

Accuracy about life and God’s ability to deliver fill this psalm. David started the song on a positive note. Then, in the verses quoted above, he described the reason God’s might was needed to rescue. In the English of the NIV, depressing “D” words pile up to make his point: death… destruction… distress. The word translated grave is the Hebrew Sheol, the invisible realm of the dead, from which only the Lord can deliver. David piled up words to announce that he was totally dependent on God, apart from his mighty power, he was certain to die. Until we understand our desperate need, we will not cry out to the Lord to save. David wanted people to feel how bad his case was. Unless the living God had intervened, he was dead.

In this apparently hopeless situation, David did what people who believe in God do. He prayed. Notice again the personal relationship he claimed with God: I cried to my God for help. Because he knew God, he brought his requests to God. He knew that God heard him. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears. God has compassion on us in our trials. He may not answer the way we want or expect, but he does act as we pray. David wrote to give God’s people words and ideas for us when we cry out to the Lord. He wanted them to know that in the bleakest times, God hears and cares and helps his people. Don’t give way to despair. God might well have closed one way for you. But he who will not lead you one way will lead you another, as you trust in him. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; in all your ways know him, and he will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6 CSB).

Grace and peace, David

The Attributes of God (Part Thirteen)

To the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen (Romans 16:27 NIV).

God is wise. God has infinite ability and skill to do what is best for the glory of his name and the good of his people. “Knowledge and wisdom, though often confounded by careless thinkers, are different. Wisdom always has respect to action… Our knowledge and moral principles have much influence in directing our conduct, and that man is considered wise, whose knowledge and moral principles direct his conduct well. Wisdom is therefore regarded as consisting in the selection of the best end of action, and the adoption of the best means for the accomplishment of this end. God is infinitely wise, because he selects the best possible end of action. What the end Jehovah has in view in all his works, we cannot claim to comprehend” (Dagg, pp. 86-87).

God only is wise (Romans 16:27), and his wisdom is profound (Job 9:4), since his wisdom has no limits. We cannot take all things into view at once (or at all!), but he can. That is why wisdom belongs to God (Job 12:3). This is difficult for us to comprehend. We see others make unwise and destructive plans and choices and even, perhaps grudgingly admit, that we also have the same failures. This hinders us from acknowledging God’s wisdom.

However, God makes known his wisdom to us in the scriptures. In wisdom, God made the universe (Psalm 104:24; Proverbs 3:19; Jeremiah 10:12). God works out his purposes of displaying the glory of his wisdom (Ephesians 3:10). If he works to bring disaster on the wicked, such works proceed from his wisdom (Isaiah 31:2). In his sovereign rule over all nations, his wisdom guides all his choices (Daniel 2:20). In salvation, the Lord works through his wisdom to save his chosen people (1 Corinthians 1:21, 24, 2:7; Ephesians 1:7-8). We need to remember the great word of the doxology in Romans 11:36. For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen (NIV). Everything is under the direction of the all-wise, holy, and sovereign Lord of the universe. When there are matters beyond our understanding, we can trust his wisdom. If we lack wisdom, we should ask God (James 1:5), since he is all-wise. When we comprehend something of his wisdom, we ought to bow in worship him as wise (Revelation 7:12).

In all the events and turns of our lives, we must trust the infinite wisdom of God (Romans 11:33). When we lack comfort or suffer, he has a wise reason (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). If our body fails, we can be assured that he has something better in store for us (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18). If we lack worldly riches, God may be keeping us from a trap (1 Timothy 6:9). If we lose our dearest in life, he remains worthy of our faith (Job 13:15)! God’s wisdom provides a basis for peaceful rest when our world seems to be going crazy.

How can we acquire wisdom? We must reverently fear God (Job 28:28; Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:7; 9:10; 15:33) and receive his word (Psalm 119:97-100), but above all, wisdom is found in the Lord Jesus Christ (Colossians 2:2-3)!

Grace and peace, David

The Attributes of God (Part Ten)

I will proclaim the name of the Lord. Oh, praise the greatness of our God! He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he (Deuteronomy 32:3-4 NIV).

God is trustworthy. God is truthful or incapable of deceiving (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18). Whatever God says must be accurate and true, and so his word is truth (Psalm 12:6; Isaiah 45:19; John 17:17), just as he is truth (Psalm 31:5; Isaiah 65:16; John 7:28; 8:26; 14:6, 17; 17:3; 1 John 5:20; Revelation 3:7) and his ways are true (Revelation 15:3).

God’s veracity or trustworthiness is “an attribute of his nature, which, like his power, exists, and makes him what he is, even though there be no outward relation to it. By virtue of it, he is the source of all truth, not moral only, but even mathematical” (Boyce, Abstract of Theology, pp. 98-99). In other words, truth exists in the universe, because the Creator is the God who is true in all his actions and revelations. In this way, God’s truthfulness becomes the foundation of human confidence in knowledge, “whether by intuition, observation or reason” (Boyce, p. 99). For this reason, we have a foundation for human rationality.

“The truth of God is a great pillar for our faith. Were not he a God of truth, how could we believe in him? Our faith were fancy; but he is truth itself, and not a word which he has spoken shall fall to the ground” (Watson, A Body of Divinity, p. 101). Since God is true, his words “are the index of reality: they show us things as they really are, and as they will be for us in the future according to whether we heed God’s words to us or not” (Packer, p. 102). Therefore, we are wise when we seek the true God to guide and teach us (Psalm 43:3; 86:11).

Closely related to God’s trustworthiness is his faithfulness. God is dependable and can be trusted to perform what he has promised. God is faithful in his character (Exodus 34:6; Deuteronomy 7:9; Psalm 36:5; 86:15; 146:6; Isaiah 49:7; 1 Corinthians 1:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; 2 Timothy 2:13; Hebrews 10:23), actions (Psalm 33:4; 91:4; 138:8; Lamentations 3:22-23; 1 Corinthians 10:13; 2 Thessalonians 3:3), and words (2 Samuel 7:28; 2 Chronicles 6:15; 2 Corinthians 1:18-20).

“In all His relations with His people God is faithful. He may be safely relied upon. No one ever yet really trusted Him in vain. We find this precious truth expressed almost everywhere in the Scriptures, for His people need to know that faithfulness is an essential part of the Divine character. This is the basis of our confidence in Him. But it is one thing to accept the faithfulness of God as a Divine truth, it is quite another to act upon it. God has given us many ‘exceeding great and precious promises,’ but are we really counting on His fulfillment of them? Are we actually expecting Him to do for us all that He has said?” (Pink, Attributes of God, p. 60)

God’s faithfulness demands certain responses on our part. We should praise God for his faithfulness (Psalm 92:1-2; Isaiah 25:1), commit ourselves to his care (1 Peter 4:19), and seek forgiveness from his grace (1 John 1:9).

Grace and peace, David

Providence Explained (Part One)

Genesis 45:4-15

We are unusual creatures. God has blessed us with rational minds, but we do not use them as we ought. On the one hand, we are content to know very little of what we ought to know. On the other hand, we want to know very much about what is not our business to know. If something bad happens, we demand a full explanation. “I want to know the reason for this!” But if something good happens, who cares to find out the reason? We must also work with inadequate source material. We have experienced numerous events, but we do not know God’s reasons for the events. Even Biblical characters had to live with the mystery of providence. Some of them knew what God was doing. However, they had difficulty understanding why God acted in a particular way; for example, Habakkuk. We must also recognize that even the experience of talking with the Lord did not guarantee an explanation for Abraham or Job.

In this passage, we have at least a partial explanation for the suffering that the members of Jacob’s family went through. Even here, however, there is no account of why God chose to act in this way. There are still areas that God reserves to himself. It is not our business to pry into them. To get on many websites, you need to know the password. If you don’t have it, the information is none of your business.

Let’s begin by viewing God’s good purpose (45:4-7). The explanation was given within a context of love (45:4).

Joseph invited his brothers to draw near. The tenderness of love seeks fellowship. This is the way God approaches his people. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16 NIV). Come near to God and he will come near to you (James 4:8a NIV).

Joseph provided reassurance of his identity. This was a clear sign that he really knew them. He pressed the point home that he was their brother. “He did not intend this as an accusation because he immediately continued by telling them that they should not be distressed or angry with themselves for what they had done to him” [Aalders, Commentary on Genesis).

Joseph’s explanation emphasized God’s will and activity. And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance (45:5-7 NIV).

Having seen their repentance, he persuaded them not to punish themselves about their sin (45:5).

Joseph is a good example of a generous spirit. Though we should not excuse our own sins, we should seek to comfort the repentant with gentle words. He told them that God had sent him to Egypt and why he had sent him.

Someone might ask, “Hadn’t his brothers sold him as a slave?” Yes, but Joseph did not look at second causes. Instead, he honored God in all that has happened. The attitude of worship dominated his life. He told them what would surely happen in the near future. For years God had worked toward this time, and there was still more of this particular plan to unfold. God’s arm has a long reach.

Dear readers, let us all humble ourselves by calmly resting in the knowledge that right now the Lord God is working out his plan of salvation for the salvation of many around the world. We all are part of his good purpose. Who knows, the turmoil in your life might work out for the salvation of many? The great slogan in Philadelphia Sixers’ basketball has been “Trust the Process.” Let us trust God’s process.

Grace and peace, David

A Principle of Trust

Isaiah 31:1

Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or seek help from the Lord (NIV).

We all are dependent. Self-sufficiency is a myth clung to by those who have failed to think deeply about life. We all receive help from others in many ways. Crises can unmask live-shaking experiences of this reality, but our need for trust is constant. For a common example (for those over fifty!), I just received a message to pick up a prescription from the pharmacy. I trust that the pharmacist puts the correct medication in the bottle. I also trust the prescribing physician, the drug manufacturer, etc.

More pressing needs, like severe illnesses and terrorism, compel people to exercise faith, to pray. Or perhaps they do. Our text teaches that people seek other solutions besides trust in the Lord. Israel, God’s old covenant people, serves as a teaching example for us in the new covenant age (cf. Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:5, 11). Isaiah spoke to Israel’s desperate situation. Strong nations encircled them, and they had an obvious need for protection from attacks and conquest by foreign powers. Need was not their problem or ours. God knows what we need. (See Matthew six.) It was what to do about the need. This brings us to a principle of faith.

  • We need to avoid attractive, plausible alternatives. In Israel’s situation, the substitute for trust in God was to go down to Egypt for help. What made the alternative appealing was the power they could see, rather than the greater power that was invisible. Horses, chariots, and horsemen could be seen. Today, people depend on military might, on wealth and prosperity, on people of skill, and on the latest technology. Part of our difficulty is that we get caught up in the latest and greatest. For example, “Don’t give me an iPhone 4; it’s not even functional. I have an iPhone 7, but there’s so much it can’t do. I need the next version soon!” We long for what we can see with more power. We spiral down and away from God.
  • We ought to understand God’s judgment on those who go down to Egypt for help. The Spirit of the Lord gave a terse verdict on those who put their trust in other things: Woe. It was a course of action that was doomed, that the Sovereign Lord would ensure was doomed. The Spirit wanted them to see the “poison” label and shun the alternative. To seek other help besides the Lord invites God’s judgment and ruin into our lives. What might look like a good solution becomes the portal to deeper and more destructive consequences.
  • We should act in the way of God’s wisdom: look to the Holy One of Israel and seek help from the Lord. What is the point? From many passages in the Bible, it is clear that we are to use human means, since they are all gifts from God. So, this verse is not teaching some sort of passivity in which we do nothing. Instead, the Lord wants us to seek him first and to rely on him in the use of proper means. Yes, go to the doctor, take your medicine, and get proper rest and exercise. But first, depend on the living God for your health and other needs. We are to actively trust: seek help from the Lord.

The question is, “Will we trust in the Lord first in our next predicament?” God wants us to desire him first and above all. This is an important principle of trusting God.

Grace and peace, David

Exploring Matthew 10

And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand’ (Matthew 10:7 ESV).

In the Gospel of Matthew, we encounter five great discourses or teaching sections of Jesus. Each of these contains essential lessons from the Teacher to his learners (disciples). The first, third and last in the list below bear the names usually attached to them:

  • The Sermon on the Mount (5-7)
  • The Instructions for Mission (10)
  • The Kingdom Parables (13)
  • The Community of the King (18-20)
  • The Olivet Discourse (24-25)

If you want an easier list to remember, think: life (5-7), mission (10), kingdom (13), community (18-20), and outlook (24-25). Starting with your thumb, visualize a word written on each fingerprint and memorize the list. Now to chapter ten itself.

Matthew 10 is linked to the end of the previous chapter (9:35-38). In it we observe Jesus involved in the work the Father gave him to do and his prayer request for laborers for the harvest. Matthew 10:1-4 reveals a partial answer to that request. From his learners, Jesus chose twelve to form a special group in which they are also called apostles (“sent ones” – this is the only time that Matthew uses the term). These twelve disciples are listed in pairs, which is suggestive for the way others would be sent out to minister (cf. Luke 10:1).

The remainder of the chapter develops the concept of mission in three ways:

  • The short-term mission of the Twelve (10:5-15) — The instructions to the twelve disciples are part of the narrative. In God’s plan, Jesus had work for them to do to extend the impact of Jesus’ earthly ministry. While some matters clearly for the Twelve on their first “mission trip” (like their restricted location and ability to perform miracles), there are general principles that apply to missional living for all disciples. We are to serve people in their need, trust God for provision, and look for a “person of peace” and extend a local ministry from that person. Notice that even on this short-term trip, there was the possibility of opposition (10:14-15).
  • The long-term mission to the whole world (10:16-23) — Developing the idea of opposition, Jesus wants us to be aware of several matters: He knows the dangerous situation that he sends us into; he tells us that danger will come because of our relationship to him and the witness we give for him; he provides the Spirit as our Helper; and tells us to persevere for him in spite of persecution, even from our own families.
  • The response of disciples to the world’s opposition (10:24-42) — First, the Lord knows our hearts and talks to us about fear. The idea is to replace fear with trust in the Father’s care (10:26-33). Second, he counsels us about his agenda. He does not intend to bring peace but a sword, and so we should not think that something has gone wrong. We must maintain a proper Christ-focus at all times (10:34-39). Third, the response of people to us depends on their response to Christ. He will reward those who care for his followers (10:40-42).

Hopefully, this will give you an overview as you explore this chapter. Read it many times, because it presents attitudes that we need as we join Christ on his mission. Take many notes. Hide this passage in your heart. How can we expect to follow Christ faithfully in this world unless we know his will?

Grace and peace, David

Prayer One of a Struggler (Part Two)

Psalm 25:1-3

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me. Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame; they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous (ESV).

David felt the pull toward expecting disgrace. It is unclear when he wrote this psalm, but he had many such times before and after he became king. In this first prayer, his chief concern was about his enemies beating him, with the result of his utter disgrace. What do you do when your team is four runs down in the bottom of the ninth and you seem sure to lose? The Almighty God sits on your bench.

David refuses to admit defeat; he joins the good fight of faith. He actively trusts in God. He lifts up his soul to his covenant Lord. To lift up one’s soul is to direct it to seek something (cf. Psalm 24:4); here it speaks of setting your whole heart on God as the chief good you seek (cf. Psalm 16:2). He longs for God. In the midst of the uproar, David was self-controlled. When boats are out on the Great Lakes and the small craft warnings are raised, wise captains put about and head toward harbor. It is wise to seek the all-sufficient God in trouble.

Very often, your soul might feel like it cannot rise to God. It is like it has lost its wings. The sorrow or melancholy mood or temptation or anger can lead you into the trap of assuming there is no way out. In such horrible seasons, don’t give up on prayer, but exert all your faith to lift up your soul to God. God our Father wants us to draw near to him (James 4:8).

During the struggle, David refreshes his soul by telling the truth about God and his interaction with people. He relies on two truths that deal with the ultimate outcome of life. Short-term results might give the wrong impression, but in the end two facts will be clear.

  • No one whose hope is in God will ever be put to shame. The Lord has committed himself to our final triumph. He will demonstrate through your life the omnipotence of his grace and mercy. The present sneers and mockery of those against you will be silenced by the acclamation of the Lord, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”
  • Everyone who is treacherous will be put to shame. David knew the bitterness of betrayal by his father-in-law, his close friend, and his son. He experienced the cheers and the jeers of the crowds. In all human experience, there is a time for love and a time for hate (Ecclesiastes 3:8). We cannot escape this. But God assures his people that judgment will come on the ungodly.

It seems everyone has enemies who seek their ruin. We may pray that their wicked schemes do not come to fruition. “Confuse them, defeat them, O Lord.” Yet do not lift your soul up to hatred. Turn it to love your enemies (Matthew 5:44). Pray for protection, and trust God to vindicate you.

Grace and peace, David

Decrease in Spirituality

IMG_09932 Chronicles 16:7-10

Last time we remarked about the honesty of God’s word. The Holy Spirit does not cover-up the sins of believers. This is far from the course of this world, where political parties hide, cover-up, explain away, and blame shift the sins and errors of their candidates. You will never hear political parties admit, “Yeah, we’re asking you to vote for a deeply flawed person.” But God wants us to see that he graciously works with and through sinful people. Asa is one example. He was loyal to the Lord God his whole life; he didn’t turn from the Lord to false gods. Asa’s heart was fully committed to the Lord all his life (15:17 NIV). Yet in his latter days, Asa refused to listen to God’s Word.

For this reason, God sent a prophet to rebuke Asa for his lack of faith. As we have already observed, there were many sins connected with what Asa did. But Hanani the prophet focused on the crucial point: Asa’s unbelief in God’s power. Unbelief is the epitome of evil, because it worships what is created rather than the Creator. Unbelief also leads to foolishness, since it turns from the faithful God to humanity, which is weak and undependable. Consider the words of Jeremiah. For My people have committed a double evil: They have abandoned Me, the fountain of living water, and dug cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that cannot hold water (Jeremiah 2:13 HCSB).

The prophet reminded Asa about God’s previous mercy. He told Asa that he had acted against his own experience of what the Lord could do. Every time we experience an answer to our prayers, it remains as a witness of God’s all-ability to needs yet to come. For example, over many years, I have seen God supply financial needs for various gatherings of Christ’s people. Those local churches experienced this year after year. But at the end of one year would come the cry, “Where will the money come from for the next year?” Why do we do this? What don’t we depend on the Lord? It’s like we want to see God’s provision in hand before we have the need or pray. I have truthfully said, “I don’t know where the money (or whatever the need is) will come from, but I am certain that we can always trust God, who is able to do much more than we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20).

“But see how deceitful our hearts are! We trust in God when we have nothing else to trust to, when needs drives us to him; but, when we have other things to stay on, we are apt to stay too much on them and to lean to our own understanding as long as that has any thing to offer; but a believing confidence will be on God only, when a smiling world courts it most” (Henry).

The prophet told Asa that he had acted against the truth of what God is. God was well aware of what his people needed. The schemes of Baasha were no surprise to him. And God was committed to help his people in their need (cf. Philippians 4:19), when their hearts are committed to him. Asa forgot the truths of God’s sovereignty, omniscience, faithfulness, and mercy to his own hurt. Sound theology is important to a healthy walk with God. The prophet also told Asa that he had acted against his own best interests. Asa had turned from the God of peace; therefore, from that point he will experience trouble.

Tragically, Asa rebelled against God’s message. He did not repent but hardened his heart.

He persecuted God’s prophet. This initiated a course of action in Israel that the Lord Jesus later condemned (Matthew 23:29-39). When we open the doors to sinful ways, we have no idea what the end will be. He oppressed some of the people. In a sinful world, many otherwise innocent people are adversely affected by the sins of leaders. The sinful actions of political leaders of both major parties in our nation are ruining the lives of many people. It is time for God’s people to turn from political hopes to fresh dependence on the living God.

Grace and peace, David

Where Do You Run?

IMG_1148Psalm 3

David the king was a man of worship. He loved to communicate with his God, the true and living God. He prayed, he praised. He wept, rejoiced. He expressed anger, yet he again and again found rest in the Lord. David was glad to share his life with God, regardless of his worldly circumstances. Though he became king, he was often a fugitive from his enemies. We read of one of these times in the third psalm. The Psalms are songs, songs with many purposes. One purpose is to worship God for his glorious true story; another is to teach others about our place in God’s story.

Life hurts sometimes. David was not ashamed to write a song about the problems and pain God’s dearly loved people experience. David did not regard such happenings as a reason to doubt the Lord and to turn away from him. Instead, he wisely found that he could rely upon the God who is over all, even when it was easier to fear than to trust and worship.

David began this song by stating his situation (3:1-2). This is not to inform the all-knowing God about his problems. The Lord fully comprehends our needs before we state them. This is one way people share their lives with others. David talked to his God about what was happening. In the song, it lets others know of why he needed to turned to the all-powerful God. David had many enemies, and they assumed that they had David trapped. What made this especially painful for David was that the leader of his enemies was his own son, Absalom.

In this song David sings about his hope or confident expectation. It was that the Lord would be his shield (3:3). Since David was a warrior, he valued shields as a means of protection. We might think more about the airbags in our cars. He viewed the Lord as his protection in every direction: “you are a shield around me”. Regardless of the ways his many enemies planned to attack him, David was confident that the Lord was sufficient to guard him. God was the one who had lifted him up to be king, and so he was “safe and secure from all alarms”. Knowing God’s all-sufficiency produced four beneficial consequences in David’s heart and relationship with God. He wrote that we might sing about these benefits with him.

  • David addressed the Lord in prayer (3:4). He cried out to the Lord and the Lord answered him from his holy hill. (This is probably a reference to Zion, where David had brought the ark of the covenant, which was important in Israel’s old covenant worship.) In our time, we night speak of the “throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16). David knew the importance of prayer (James 4:2). God is willing to be brought into our battles as the shield of protection that we need.
  • David affirmed his faith in the Lord (3:5-6). He sang about how he was able to lie down and sleep. Are you able to do this after you pray to the Lord about your troubles? Or do you toss and turn after you pray? Faith requires us to tell our need to God and to leave the results to his wise action. He saw the Lord very close to him. I don’t think David bothered to make an exact head count of his enemies. He used hyperbole to press the point of his complete trust in his Shield.
  • David appealed to the Lord to act for his good (3:7). Here, David prayed like a man under the law covenant. He asked the Lord to act in vengeance against the enemies of his kingdom. (David was God’s anointed ruler.) As Jesus taught his disciples, we are not to pray like this in our new covenant age (Luke 9:55). We do better to pray like Stephen (Acts 7:60). We need to ask the Lord to enable us to share the good news boldly with those who oppose us (Acts 4:29).
  • David admired God’s victory, which he had to wait for (3:8). The story of David tells us that the Lord did rescue him and his kingdom, though God’s victory brought great anguish to David’s heart (2 Samuel 18:19-19:8). We suppose that when God rescues us that we will only know great joy. But we must still live in a broken world in our own brokenness. The good news is that David was able to receive the rebukes of others, break out of his grief and depression, and write this song for the benefit of others.

Where do you run in your troubles? I hope you turn to the true and living God, who is able to rescue you. Where do you run after the Lord rescues you? Do you focus on your remaining or new difficulties? Or are you ready to tell others of the comfort with which your Father in heaven has comforted you (2 Corinthians 1)?

Grace and peace, David

Pray for Kindness for Others

IMG_0914Ruth 1:6-9

Naomi and her two daughters-in-law were on the road back to Israel. For Naomi, this was a return to the old covenant people, their land, and their worship of the true God. For Ruth and Orpah, it would be a return to God from idols. For some reason not explained in the Bible (and it is pointless to speculate when the Word is silent), Naomi stopped to talk to the young women about not going with her. One thing is clear, Naomi wanted the Lord’s blessing on her daughters-in-law (1:8-9).

Naomi demonstrated the place of kindness in relationships. The Hebrew word translated “kindness” is a rich word that means “covenantal loyalty, kindness, goodness, mercy, love, and compassion” (Younger). People in covenant relationships (whether to one’s family or one’s local church) are to show kindness to one another. You have a right and an obligation to expect and to give and to receive kindness. By the Spirit, you and I are to bring forth kindness (Galatians 5:22). Naomi acknowledges their kindness in her family. When people act properly, we should commend them for it. She honored them for acting kindly in her family, and especially toward her deceased sons, in the way that they should have. May each of you experience this in all your relationships with your in-laws!

Yet Naomi sought or seemed to seek the end of her relationship with Ruth and Orpah. She unexpectedly did this in two ways. She suggested they return to their mothers’ homes, which is an unusual expression in the Old Testament Scriptures. In the three times it occurs, it refers to marriage and marital love (Genesis 24:28; Song of Songs 3:4; 8:2). So Naomi suggested that they return to their mothers to seek assistance in finding new husbands. She also kissed them goodbye. She intended to seal her permanent separation from them in a loving manner. We are wise to always and only part with true affection for each other, since we do not know if we will ever see each other again in this world. For example, one of my uncles died very unexpectedly in his forties years ago. He and his pastor had been having some sort of sharp disagreement about something. But the last Sunday morning my uncle was in church, he parted from his pastor by saying, “Pastor, you know I love you.” And the pastor said, “Bill, I love you, too.”

As already said, we are not given an explanation in the text for Naomi’s reason. But we should not be overly critical of her. Her life was filled with uncertainties. In addition, in her current condition, Naomi could not make any promises to the young women. She was destitute herself and unable to suggest that they might be able to remarry within the covenant community of Israel. All that Naomi could see for them at this point would be poverty and long lives as desolate, childless widows in a foreign country.

We should also realize that by returning to Judah, Naomi was throwing herself upon the mercies of the Lord, who promised to care for widows. But did her daughters-in-law, who were of a people who worshiped false gods, now really share her worldview? Would they trust the Lord? However troubled Naomi may have been in her friendship with God, she was on the way back to God, to live in conformity with his word. Now, she could give a clear witness of her faith in God. Are we living in faith, so that we can also testify to our reliance on the Lord’s provision? In other words, what is there in your life that provides evidence to others that you are living by faith?

So then, Naomi prayed for God’s blessing on Ruth and Orpah. “It is very proper for friends, when they part, to part with prayer” (Henry). Observe how she mentioned “the Lord” (Yahweh, the living God) twice in her prayers. She consciously uses the covenant name of God to seek blessing. Her prayer was based on the truth that the Lord is God over all nations and can bless in any place.

She prayed that the Lord would show kindness to them. Having heard of God’s renewed kindness for his people, she dared to pray for his kindness for two women from the nations. How much more should we who live in the new covenant pray for God’s kindness on the nations! She also prayed that the Lord would provide both with new husbands. Notice the idea of “rest” for women in the marital relationship. “In essence, it connotes permanence, settlement, security, and freedom from anxiety after wandering, uncertainty, and pain” (Hubbard). Much more could be said on this subject! Ladies, do you pray for your families, as Naomi prayed for her daughters-in-law?  Men, are we concerned that our wives experience “rest” in our marriage? Let us all pray for God’s kindness to produce rest in our families.

Grace and peace, David