Psalms 51-55

Psalms 51-55…The deception of sin.

Does the motive of a sin–its rationale, its reasons–make it any less a sin? Isn’t the betrayal of the sovereignty of the Lord in our lives always a sin, regardless of the factors that drove us to betray Him? Yes! Yet we habitually defend ourselves and diminish our fault by referring to reasons why we “had to” do it. We sinners are so backward that we try to justify ourselves by some condition which preceded the sin.

To rationalize sin is to justify oneself, protecting and holding onto sin. But to see sin as God does is to repent in brokenness of heart, allowing His forgiveness to cleanse us.

Psalm 51 is a great example of rightly humbling ourselves before the Lord. Where did David begin in his confession? He began with God. His confession showed great faith in God’s character: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions” (v. 1). He trusted in God’s power to forgive sin–to blot it out and wash the sinner clean. Hyssop symbolized ritual cleansing under the Law (v. 7). The king’s confession also demonstrated spiritual brokenness. He understood how much he offended God; in fact, he couldn’t forget it. He grieved deeply over what he’d done–it was as though his bones had been crushed. He acknowledged the justice of God’s punishment, which is no light statement considering that the penalty of his sin was the death of his baby son (v. 4). He also acknowledged his general sinful condition (v. 5).

Which of David’s attitudes did you find most convicting? Why? How can you apply these biblical truths to your life today?

Psalms 31-45

Psalms 31-45…Prayers of repentance.

Confessing our sins before God is another type of prayer we should practice often. Psalm 38 is traditionally considered one of the seven “penitential psalms,” with the others being Psalms 6, 32, 51, 102, 130, and 143. The main point is found in verse 18: “I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin.” Thus, when the psalmist asked the Lord to help him, we understand that he was talking primarily about forgiveness.

David’s soul was sick, and he described these feelings in intense bodily terms. He had no health, his bones were unsound, his back ached, his wounds festered, he was mute and deaf, he felt crushed and helpless. All these symptoms afflicted him because he knew he had offended God. God was disciplining His child, exercising holy wrath to bring him to the painful point of repentance. The physical imagery is so vivid here that some commentators actually think the psalmist had a life-threatening illness! Have you ever confessed your sins with this kind of spiritual intensity? In addition, because David was Israel’s king, God had made his sin and its consequences public. As a result, his friends had dropped away and his enemies were waiting to pounce.

As we see in Psalm 38, there’s nothing heavier than the burden of sin, and nothing sweeter than God’s forgiving love. 1 John 1:9 says: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Ask the Spirit to search your heart and bring you into unhindered fellowship with the Lord. If there is unconfessed sin, as well, repent before the Lord. Renew your commitment to righteousness and enjoy even closer fellowship with Him!

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 Chronicles 1-4

1 Chronicles 1-4…God wants our obedience.

Two basic principles enumerated in the list of names in these first four chapters prevail throughout the OT. Namely, obedience brings blessing, disobedience brings judgment. In the Chronicles, when the king obeyed and trusted the Lord, God blessed and protected. But when the king disobeyed and/or put his trust in something or someone other than the Lord, God withdrew His blessing and protection.

Three basic failures by the kings of Judah brought God’s wrath:

1) personal sin

2) false worship/idolatry

3) trust in man rather than God

Before we quickly move past these failures and assume this was something only experienced in the OT, we need to look at our own hearts. We are guilty of these things daily. So, we need to repent and put our hope in Christ daily. Also, we need to conform our thoughts and hearts to God’s word. Only then can we mature in these areas.

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.

Leviticus 13-15

Leviticus 13-15…Regulations and cleansing instructions on uncleanness.

Things which were declared unclean in chapters 13-15 either had to be purified or destroyed. People who were declared unclean by the priests suffered the humiliation of being declared (and, in some cases of having to declare oneself) unclean, and then the resulting isolation from the presence of God and from association with the people of God. That which was unclean was put outside the camp, away from the presence of God and His people. In some cases the unclean thing or person was viewed as being a contaminator of others.

If we are saved, then we have been made perfectly clean through Christ’s righteousness. These chapters teach us just how massive the chasm is between God and us. The carefulness regarding holiness is still to be an important part of how we help to maintain God’s glory in our local churches. For the one in our church, who is unrepentant and persistent in sin, but claims to be a Christian, there must be specific steps taken to keep God’s name from being defamed. Matthew 18:15-20 provides a blueprint for how the church should deal with sin. If we truly love our brothers and sisters in Christ, we’ll know, understand, and apply this text with gentleness. This passage should always be understood with God’s glory through the corporate witness of the local church being of utmost importance. Restoration and repentance are what we should desire for the one caught in sin.

Leviticus 4-6

Leviticus 4-6…Sin offerings and guilt offerings.

The idea that sin brings pollution is thoroughly biblical, and the reality of this pollution was dealt with under the old covenant through the sin offering described in these chapters. “Sin offering” is a perfectly acceptable translation of the Hebrew term in Leviticus 4, but what the sin offering actually accomplished is better seen in the words purification offering. The sin offering purified the sanctuary; it removed the defilement of sin that occurred when the people broke the covenant.

Our holy God cannot be in the presence of those people and things that are unclean, and each time people sinned under the old covenant, they dirtied themselves. The burnt offering solved the problem of the Lord’s wrath, but it did not purify the one offering the sacrifice. There still needed to be expiation, or the removal of sin’s pollution, from the worshipers and the instruments of worship. The blood of the sin offering accomplished this cleansing. The tabernacle that became defiled because it was located in the midst of a sinful people was cleansed by the blood of the sacrifice, and the sinner was made clean and able to stand before God again (4:1–5:13).

Reading the Old Testament in light of the New is so important for the Christian. Christ’s ultimate, blood sacrifice permanently removed our sins forever. Leviticus shows us how our sin separates us from God, and His character is no different today than when this book was written. Apart from Christ, God’s wrath is awful. However, the joy we have if we’re in Christ is derived from both what we’re saved from (His wrath & Hell), and our reward (eternal life in perfect fellowship with God).

Leviticus 1-3

Leviticus 1-3…The burnt offering, the grain offering, and the fellowship offering.

Burnt offerings were the propitiatory sacrifices in ancient Israel. For God to maintain His justice, He must punish sin. To forgive at the expense of His just wrath would be inconsistent with His character; according to His holiness, those who have sinned must die (Gen. 2:15–17; Rom. 6:23). Once the Lord satisfies His wrath, it passes away, allowing fellowship between the Creator and His people. The burnt offering temporarily accomplished propitiation (satisfied God’s wrath) under the old covenant (2 Chron. 29:7–8), allowing God’s wrath to be appeased against Israel.

In this section of scripture (Leviticus 3 in particular), we also see God’s concern for His glory being made known through a corporate witness. God has always wanted His people to live together in unity, love, and holiness, so His name would be glorified. Today, this is done practically through the local church. This is Christ’s plan for his people, and it includes you if you’re a Christian. Commitment to a local church is they way in which we live out all the “one another” imperatives in the New Testament.

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.