Psalm 119:3

Psalm 119:3

Continuing on the theme of being blessed (i.e. content, satisfied, and secure in the Lord, not merely happy), the Psalmist says something which may seem unrealistic. He’s referring to those “who also do no wrong” as blessed. How is this possible?

Throughout scripture we see things which may on the surface seem contradictory. But if we want to be thoughtful and consistent, we’ll dig deeper. The bible says that all of us do wrong; “None is righteous, no not one.” (Romans 3:10) So how do we understand Psalm 119:3 in light of this truth? Well, we certainly want to strive for perfect obedience. Given the fact that we can’t be sinless this side of heaven, what does it mean to do no wrong?

I think our answer lies in Matthew 18. Jesus gave instructions on how to handle believers who were persistent and unrepentant in their sin. After gently and carefully walking alongside such a person (read more about biblical church discipline and membership here Continue reading

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Psalms 21-25

Psalms 21-25…God is relational.

David often opens his prayers in the Psalms with a simple but profound statement about the relationship between himself (as the king) and God (as the King). God is the righteous protector of His people who would bring their enemies to shame. He is worthy of the wholehearted trust David placed in Him.

Psalm 25 in particular shows a series of petitions and praises made in the context of this relationship, many of which focus on David’s desire to know God better. He prayed that God would teach and guide him in the way of truth and obedience, the only way that he could have any genuine hope. He also prayed that God would “remember” him–meaning, as we’ve seen before, that God would remain loving and faithful to him. Only God’s mercy and love could cover and cleanse his sins. The psalmist was confident that God is the sort of God who can and will answer such requests. He affirmed that God instructs sinners and forgives wrongdoing. He loves people who are humble, repentant, and obedient, and who revere Him. Best of all, “The Lord confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them.” In this relationship, God Himself has taken the initiative and shared His “secrets,” as friends do.

The idea of a personal relationship with God is a key facet of the life of prayer. This is a major difference between Christianity and other world religions. It is also a very powerful witness to the absolute truth of the Christian faith, as we cannot deny our desire for personal relationships, and our absolute need for them. We have these desires because we were made in God’s image, and He designed us to be relational creatures.

Job 19-21

Job 19-21…Why is this world broken?

Why is there evil in the world? Related to this is the question of why the wicked seem to get away with their wrongdoing. There’s no easy answer to this problem, and this fact forms the basis of Job’s reply to round two of his friends’ speeches. In this speech, for the first time, Job does not address the Lord, but instead counters his friends’ claims. This speech is also much less emotional.

The biggest problem with retribution theology, Job begins, is that it doesn’t really explain the ways of the world. As he looks around, he finds numerous examples of the wicked prospering. They grow old, they are safe, and they are successful. What’s more, they die happy, even though they deny God. The picture that Job paints here is similar to the one that Eliphaz drew of the good man, so it may be that Job intends a deliberate contrast. Ironically, Job’s friends have accused him of opposing God by challenging His ways, but it is they themselves who have been, in essence, telling God how the world should be run.

The book of Job doesn’t answer the problem of evil. We need to look elsewhere in Scripture to consider various aspects of this difficult question. Psalm 73 is a good place to start. Here the psalmist considers the apparent success of the wicked and wonders if he has been faithful in vain. The turning point comes in v. 17, where the psalmist begins to understand the final destiny of the wicked beyond this life. Then his heart is encouraged, as he considers his own eternal destiny with the Lord.

1 Samuel 11-13

1 Samuel 11-13…King Saul is not King Jesus

God’s miraculous calling of Saul as King of Israel is encouraging. Saul was supernaturally changed, and the result was a humble, wise leader, willing to serve God. Saul was used by the Lord even though the desire for Israel to have a King went against the Lord’s ways. Saul led the Israelite army to defeat the Ammonites, and the men of Israel rejoiced greatly at the end of 1 Samuel 11.

Samuel delivers a typical, biblical sermon to the people in 1 Samuel 12, and outlines God’s providential hand on their lives, despite their sin and rebellion. In 1 Samuel 13, Saul shows why he is not the ultimate King. Like all men, he sins, and is therefore only a picture of the true King, who would save people from sin. Saul disobeys the Lord by rushing through the burnt offering process. He didn’t wait for the Lord, and instead of trusting the Lord’s timing and being patient until Samuel arrived, he went on his own. Samuel rebukes Saul; “You have done foolishly.”

How often do we do the same thing? The Lord’s timing is perfect, and He often has us wait so we’ll grow in our trust of Him. This is how He brings glory to Himself. Thankfully, King Jesus trusted the Lord perfectly, so that even our sins of impatience and distrust would be forgiven, if we repent and believe. Do you repent from distrust of the Lord? Consider ways in which you have not trusted Him fully in your life, and turn from your distrust, and pursue contentment in His timing. Preach the gospel to yourself, as a reminder of the fact that you have been given way more than you deserve.

Deuteronomy 17-19

Deuteronomy 17-19…Laws on Israel’s Kings, and a new prophet like Moses.

The king was required to carefully study the law of God, and apply it to his life. It is not enough to have Bibles, but we need to use them daily as long as we live. The king’s reading was useless if he did not practice what he read. We too must obey God’s word, as mere agreement with it is not obedience.

God promises to Israel that he would “raise up a prophet like you from among their brothers.” Jesus would save sinners by becoming human like us, taking on flesh, and perfectly fulfilling the law. His human component takes on just as much importance as His deity. We needed someone to live a holy life in our place, and God’s wrath needed to be exhausted for sin. All the more reason for us to esteem him highly, because His rescue of us came at a great cost. Also, knowing that God’s wrath is set on those who don’t submit to Christ as Lord, we should be fervent in evangelism.

Deuteronomy 1-4

Deuteronomy 1-4…Israel refuses to enter the promised land, they wander in the wilderness for years, Moses is forbidden to enter the land, and God commands obedience through Moses.

Unbelief is at the core of all sin. In Deuteronomy 1, unbelieving hearts were driving the refusal to enter the land. All disobedience to God’s laws, and distrust of his power and goodness, flow from disbelief of his word, as all true obedience springs from faith.

Only a short account of the long stay of Israel in the wilderness is given in Deuteronomy 2. God not only rebuked them for their unbelief, but prepared them for Canaan by humbling them, teaching them to hate their lusts, to follow God, and to find contentment in Him.

God’s refusal to answer Moses’ prayer to enter the promised land is a helpful lesson for us. God matures us by denying many things we desire. He hears all our prayers, but doesn’t give us all we pray for. The prosperity gospel ignores Deuteronomy 3, because Moses’ lack of faith wasn’t the reason for him not getting what he wanted. God is good, and disciplines those He loves, which often includes holding back things we want.

We see even in Deuteronomy 4 that we cannot earn our salvation. Our obedience as individuals cannot merit a right relationship with God. but it is the only evidence that we are saved. We are saved by faith alone, through grace alone, but our faith should not be alone without fruit. A fruitless faith is described by Jesus in Matthew 13 (The Parable of the Sower) as being one that doesn’t result in eternal life.

Exodus 35-37

Exodus 35-37…Constructing the tabernacle.

As would be expected, constructing a beautiful structure like the tabernacle out of the finest materials (Exodus 26) could not be done for free. God had to provide the gold, costly threads, silver, brass, animal hides, etc., either through direct intervention or indirectly through moving His people to give what they had for the important work of building His tent. We see in Exodus 35:4–29 that the Lord worked not apart from Israel but through Israel to gather the necessary materials.

Moses made known the need for Israel to donate time, talent, and funds to the work of God, perhaps through telling the elders of the people and then having them share the news with the nation (Exodus 35:4–19). In any case, Moses’ action demonstrates that it is appropriate for the leaders of God’s people to let those under their care know what is needed to support the work of ministry, whether it is funds for buildings and salaries, time surrendered to teach or to care for church grounds, special donations to expand the outreach of para-church ministries and seminaries, and any of the other countless, godly endeavors that help in small ways to advance the kingdom.

Israel responded with lavish generosity, choosing to live on less in order to fund the worship ministry. Note that the people gave what they “could” (vv. 23–24) and were not encouraged to give anything they did not have. This is an important principle in a day when televangelists encourage people to contribute “in faith,” which often means giving more than is prudent or worse, taking out loans that cannot be repaid because of the false promise of a hundredfold return.

Exodus 26-28

Exodus 26-28…Design plans for the tabernacle, the altar of burnt offerings, and the priestly garments.

There is much that could be said about the tabernacle’s design, but perhaps the most important thing to remember is that it was designed to be a copy of the Almighty’s heavenly throne room. The ark of the covenant sat within the Most Holy Place as the Lord’s footstool (Exodus 26:34), and the cherubim woven into the curtains of the tabernacle were depictions of the heavenly host that glorify God day and night in heaven (Exodus 26:1).

Clearly, the details of the tabernacle, altar, and priestly garments were to be a sign that there is a massive separation between our holy God and sinners. Entering His presence is no small matter, and His worship must be carefully guarded so His name is not profaned. The care given to entering God’s presence because of sin shows just how desperately we need a savior to intercede on our behalf. Christ’s sacrifice was pleasing to God, because of His holiness. It is a healthy spiritual practice to remember this huge chasm each day, so we esteem Jesus properly, and cling to His righteousness, seeking to grow in righteousness ourselves.

Exodus 23-25

Exodus 23-25…The last few laws, the covenant confirmed, and offerings for the tabernacle.

Three observations about these chapters:

1) God desires our worship

In Exodus 23, the last of the laws are given, and God expects the people to obey. He desires our worship of His word and His ways. He tells Moses in Exodus 23:13, “Be careful to do everything I have said to you. Do not invoke the names of other gods; do not let them be heard on your lips.” This piece of instruction closes the loop on the commands in Exodus. Back in Exodus 20, the first commandment was “you shall have no other gods before me.” Now, as the Lord concludes, He gives them some hints on how to carefully live this out practically. Carefulness, specifically avoiding speech that includes other gods. For us, this means being intentional about what we talk about. Do you ever discuss God’s word with someone else? Or are you constantly obsessed with talking about your troubles, your difficulties, your life? What are most of your conversations about?

2) God provides spiritual help for His people

Exodus 23:20 tell us, “See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared.” God has sent His Son for us and His Spirit to work in us to preserve us until we’re called home or He returns. But not only that, Christ has established His church, which is like a foreign embassy for heaven. Are you struggling to pursue Him joyfully? Commit to a local church, and live out this spiritual battles in this life with other believers. Share your life with them. Pour into them, and let them pour into you. The bible has no category for the long ranger Christian.

3) Salvation requires bloodshed

As we’ve progressed through this year-long study, beginning in Genesis 1 and now through Exodus 25, we have seen clearly that humans don’t initiate with God, but He pursues them. The blood of the covenant in Exodus 24 is a symbol of the blood Christ would shed for us. To pretend that one can come to God without blood atonement simply means that one is not coming to the one true God, to the God of the Bible, for the God of Holy Scripture lives in holy love. Yes, some have invented a convenient God of “love” who has no character of holiness in which that love functions, and to which he holds his image-bearers accountable. But this is a mere idol of the mind, who can be used to do the bidding of his deluded inventors. You will not meet such a “God” in the Scriptures. On the contrary, the true God of infinite love is at the same time a God of infinite holiness. That is why Hebrews 9:22 states: “without shedding of blood is no remission of sins.”

Exodus 20-22

Exodus 20-22…The ten commandments and the judicial laws.

Following the commandments of God is one mark of the true Christian. After all, Christ lives in His people (Gal. 2:20), and since Jesus’ food is to do the will of His Father (John 4:34), He certainly works in us so that we see following God as essential to our sustenance. Yet may we never forget that our obedience is always grounded in grace, for apart from the Lord changing our hearts, we have no desire to please Him (Rom. 8:7–8). Following God’s law, therefore, does not mean obeying it to secure our right standing in His heavenly court, for we can stand before Him by His grace alone (Eph. 2:8–9). Also, following God’s law does not mean obeying it in order to boast of how we are more godly than others. We are always to confess our failures and remember that “there but for the grace of God go I” (Luke 18:9–14).

Until we trust Christ, God’s law can merely restrain the extent of our sinning, encourage us to love sin, and condemn us as sinners who need the Savior (Rom. 7:8; Gal. 3:23–25; 1 Tim. 1:8–11). But once we are converted, God’s law becomes something in which we rejoice. Redeemed hearts no longer experience the Lord’s regulations as burdensome (1 John 5:3), and they see the importance of keeping “the commandments of God” (1 Cor. 7:19). Through obedience, we thank Him for the right standing granted to us by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (Rom. 5:12–6:14).