Psalms 61-81

Psalms 61-81…Church reformation.

The failure of Israel to hear the Word of God was rectified by God’s own Son. Jesus always heard and honored God’s Word. His Father delighted in Him for that reason: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 17:5). Jesus perfectly listened and followed so that His people would have a complete and perfect salvation. The Father continues to call His people to listen, now directing them to the words of His Son: “listen to him” (Matt. 17:5). The salvation and health of the church depend on it continuing to listen to God’s Word.

Psalm 81 seems to reflect the time of exile, when God punished Israel with the loss of the temple, its king, and the land of promise. It also reminds us of an earlier time, when Israel doubted God and grumbled about Him. At Meribah, Israel tested the Lord, doubting that He was with His people, so the Lord tested Israel and found her wanting. Similarly, we can look at the history of the church and see many times and ways in which the church failed to listen to the Word of the Lord.

The time of the Reformation, of course, was one of the greatest times in which the church returned to the Word of God. The Reformation of the church occurred because Christians began again to study the Bible carefully. The Reformers studied Greek and Hebrew, provided the church with new translations of the Bible, used the new technology of the printing press to print Bibles, and prepared some of the finest commentaries and theologies in the history of the church.

Again in our time, the church must be called to listen to the Word of God. The churches of America too often seem interested in following other voices than the voice of God. For decades, some churches have taught that the Bible is not fully and truly the Word of God. Other churches formally recognize the Bible, but seem to have lost confidence that preaching and teaching the Bible is what will convert unbelievers and build the church. Many Christians today seem to practically ignore the Bible, and as a result, they are as worldly as their unbelieving neighbors.

God says to us today, as He said to Israel of old and says to every generation of His people: “O Israel, if you would but listen to me!” Let us pray that the Holy Spirit will open ears in our churches and throughout our land. And let us listen carefully and believingly. Such listening is what the church most needs today.

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1 Chronicles 12-14

1 Chronicles 12-14…Church unity.

The crowning of David secured the unity of Israel. Because all these men of war converged on the chosen king, they met each other, and became one great nation. The enthroning of David was the uniting of the kingdom. This is also the secret of the unity of the Church. We will never be united with the brothers and sisters in our local church unless we believe and live out the gospel. It is as each individual heart esteems the Savior that each will become one with those with whom we’re in covenant community.

Is your heart perfect to make Christ king? We read in 1 Chronicles 12:33 of Zebulon, whose warriors were not of a double heart; the margin says they were “without a heart and a heart.” The double-minded man is unstable in all his ways; he is not to be relied upon in his loyalty or service to his king. The life dedicated to Christ is that of the man whose eye is single. It is only this man who receives anything from the Lord. Let us ask that the thoughts of our hearts would be cleansed by the inspiration of God’s Holy Spirit, that our hearts may be perfect toward Him, and so perfect to all who hold Jesus as King and Head, though they differ from us in minor points, especially within our local body. Different regiments, but one army, one movement, one king.

Let us learn to keep rank, shoulder to shoulder, and in step, with our brethren. Too many like to break the ranks, and do God’s work independently. Fifty men who act together will do greater execution than five hundred acting apart. There is too much of this guerilla fighting. Unity is strength; and in their efforts to overthrow the kingdom of Satan it is most essential that the soldiers of Christ move in rank and keep step. The corporate witness of Christ’s church, particularly the love, unity, and holiness of each local church, is a very powerful witness.

2 Samuel 19-21

2 Samuel 19-21…The way we live matters.

God’s reputation is either enhanced or maligned by the attitudes and actions of His people. These chapters in 2 Samuel illustrate this truth.

During the reign of David, God punished Israel with a 3-year famine because David’s predecessor King Saul had attempted to exterminate the Gibeonites (2 Samuel 21:1). His action violated a solemn promise Joshua and the rulers of Israel had made with Gibeon in the name of “the Lord God of Israel” (Joshua 9:18). God’s honor was at stake.

When David asked the Gibeonites how he could make amends, they demanded that seven men from the descendants of Saul be handed over to them to be hanged. The Bible does not tell us that the Lord demanded this retribution, and the death of Saul’s sons and grandsons must have grieved God’s heart. Yet He allowed the executions to go forward so that the agreement His people had made in His name would be renewed. The Gibeonites therefore knew that God was a God of honor.

Just as Israel profaned God’s holy name by their wickedness (Ezekiel 36:22), so too we can dishonor God today by the way we live. God is glorified particularly in how each local church lives in the geographical area in which they are placed. Churches that reflect the glory of God, through holiness, love, and unity, are like beautiful cities on a hill shining a bright light to the world, and drawing attention to God’s glory. Conversely, churches that look no different than the world, lie about what God is really like. Let’s pattern our lives after Jesus both individually and corporately. Then we will bring honor to God’s name.

Judges 1-3

Judges 1-3…The continuing conquest of Canaan, and Israel’s unfaithfulness.

Our culture believes in moral relativism. Today, most people assume that we have a “right” to do whatever we want to do. Ironically, this idea is held as if it were absolute. Objection is raised anytime someone defines immorality objectively. If indeed all have the “right” to believe what they want, the relativist has no basis to object when relativism is condemned.

The book of Judges evaluates moral relativism and shows its consequences. In 2:11, the author asserts that Israel did what was evil in the days of the judges. But what led to this evil was the same moral relativism in our society today. Judges also tells us that in those days everyone did what was right in his own eyes (21:25). Instead of submitting to God, the Israelites embraced individual autonomy. Each person became a law unto himself, and widespread evil resulted.

Sadly, individualism has infected our churches in the form of consumerism. We treat church as another item on our spiritual buffet. However, we don’t have the “right” to function as Lone Ranger Christians. Scripture is clear about submitting ourselves to the authority of a local church. Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.” So, are you obeying and submitting to your leaders? These are the elders/pastors in your church, which means if you are not committed to a church, you cannot obey this passage. Christ established His church for our spiritual good, and for His glory. Loving Jesus includes loving His followers (1 John 19-21), and the main context for this is the local church (1 Corinthians 13-14).

Joshua 22-24

Joshua 22-24…Serving the Lord.

Joshua 24:15 contains a very well-known verse we often see printed on signs or plaques in the homes of professing Christians:

“But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Our call to be servants of the Lord is a theme woven throughout the Old and New Testaments. God sent Moses to the pharaoh thousands of years ago so that the king might release His people to serve Him (Ex. 8:1). Paul in Galatians 1:10 and many other passages refers to himself as a servant of Christ. Few would argue with our Father’s command to serve Him. However, we often forget that the major way in which we serve our Creator is through service to His people. As Jesus tells us in Matthew 20:26, greatness in the kingdom of God belongs to those who serve its citizens. Some Christians do not recognize that service is a means of sanctification. This is unfortunate because service is vital for maturity in Christ, and the arena in which we are called to serve is the local church.

So, if this is a verse you have on display in your house, think first about whether or not you understand it correctly. Next, examine yourself to see if this is something you are actually doing in the context of your local church. If not, repent and begin to serve in your church. Another option would be to take the sign down, because your house may not really be serving the Lord.

Deuteronomy 29-31

Deuteronomy 29-31…Covenant renewal.

Centuries of misunderstanding of the place of God’s law in history and in the life of the believer have caused a lot of confusion over the way the Law relates to us today. As we trace the biblical understanding of the Mosaic law through the canon of Scripture, we should develop a true appreciation for this part of the Bible.

Getting a better grasp on the purpose and use of the Law requires us to remember the context in which it was given and read in the old covenant period. These three chapters of Deuteronomy outline the renewal of the covenant. This describes the reading of the Law that was to take place every seven years when all the Israelites assembled to celebrate the Feast of Booths (“tents,” Deut. 31:9–13). This was not the only time the people heard or were taught the Law, for it was to be a part of their everyday life. Still, the seventh-year reading of the Law to the whole nation was unique in that the people collectively professed their allegiance to the Lord and their countrymen under His statutes, being reminded of their need to live in submission to their awe-inspiring God.

Notice that the covenant renewal involved the whole community of believers. This is because God has called us to live in a community of believers committed to each other. The covenant was not just vertical, but horizontal as well. It is impossible to obey scripture outside of the context of a local church. The “one another” commands are designed for us to live out the Christian life in submission to elders (Hebrews 13:17), with a group of believers (Acts 2:42-47), who meet together regularly (Hebrews 10:25), hear the gospel preached (Romans 10:14), and display God’s glory to the world (Ephesians 3:8-11). When the local church functions this way, as one body, united in holiness and love, the world sees how powerful the gospel really is. When the church looks like the world, God is not glorified, and His name is misrepresented.

Deuteronomy 23-25

Deuteronomy 23-25…Assembly exclusion and miscellaneous laws.

We see the manifold wisdom of God playing out in community in Deuteronomy 23. In verses 7-8 we see this:

“You shall not abhor an Edomite, for he is your brother. You shall not abhor an Egyptian, because you were a sojourner in his land. 8 Children born to them in the third generation may enter the assembly of the Lord.”

This is what Paul is talking about in Ephesians 3:10-11 as well. The beauty of the church is that God has called us all to be holy and to love Him in a particular Christian community. In the local church our love for Him will be reflected in the way we love others, especially those who aren’t like us. The corporate witness of a spiritually healthy local church is very powerful, and the world will see God’s glory in the unity, love, and holiness of such a body. Conversely, churches that aren’t careful and intentional about who is claiming to be saved will confuse unbelievers. When a local church looks no different than the world, she lies about Christ, both in word and in deed.