SOAP Journal – 19 March 2019 (Psalm 12)

The words of the LORD are pure words;
As silver tried in a furnace on the earth, refined seven times.

Psalm 12:6

This psalm begins with David asking the LORD for help, because the godly man and the faithful man were disappearing (v. 1).

David then transitions into an explanation of what he is thinking about. And he is thinking about how the sons of men are saying quite a bit. David notes that they lie and flatter (v. 2), but that the LORD [will] cut off all flattering lips (v. 3). David states that the LORD will be moved to action by the devastation of the afflicted [and] the groaning of the needy (v. 5).

It is then that David makes his statement about the words of the LORD. The metaphor used seems to indicate that God’s words are completely pure. If that is the case, then David is saying that God’s words, unlike the words of the sons of men, can be trusted.

In verse 7, David states that God will keep the faithful and preserve the godly man.

David closes with an observation that the wicked strut about on every side when vileness or worthlessness is exalted.

David might very well have been writing this psalm is 21st Century America. Even a cursory glance at social media tells the story of a society obsessed with talking a good game. It seems like every other interview with a person of note is filled with useless words.

What is worse, our congregations are filled with people who walk in and talk as if their lives were nothing but blessing and goodness, sunshine and verdant fields. Small wonder, then, that our society seems filled to bursting with wicked people strutting around. Our airwaves are saturated with lies and flattery. We, the church, are supposed to be different. And we, by and large, are not.

And I am guilty of this. I do not walk in to church with a pasted on smile and tell people that nothing is wrong, but nor do I sit with my brothers and speak of the deep things of my soul – the things that tear me apart and cause me to bite my tongue in everyday conversation. I do not tell my brothers what is making my work life difficult and seek their prayers. I do not confide in my brothers what challenges I face in purity and in being a godly man and husband and father that they might encourage and exhort me. I do not speak often, if at all, of the things that truly enrage me or the things that stoke the fires of my passions. Instead, I speak of the things floating nearest the surface of who I am. I speak in generalities of how it is difficult to be a godly man, husband, and father. I gloss over or ignore entirely the things that enrage me and jealously guard the things about which I am truly and deeply passionate. And because of this I am diminished in my ability to connect with my brothers and my God and to effect change in this world. Because I will not be open, God is limited in His ability to take out of me the things that offend and to pour into me Himself; His Holy Spirit.

God, please forgive me for living so closed and for giving the wicked cause to strut about. I am terrified less of what You will think if I open myself – for I was never hidden from You – but of what might happen with my brethren. You have said that You give me a spirit of power and love and sound mind. I will need that spirit in abundance if I am to live in openness, as You desire, and to become the godly, faithful man that You would have me be.

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SOAP Journal – 10 October 2017 (1 Samuel 29)

But Achish replied to David, “I know that you are pleasing in my sight, like an angel of God; nevertheless the commanders of the Philistines have said, ‘He must not go up with us to the battle.’ Now then arise early in the morning with the servants of your lord who have come with you, and as soon as you have arisen early in the morning and have light, depart.”

1 Samuel 29:9-10

David had been raiding towns and leaving no survivors for a while when the Philistines mustered their forces to go to war with the Israelites. Achish, the king of the Philistines, wanted to bring David and his soldiers along as the king’s guard. The lords of the Philistines were having none of that. They commented that the Israelites sang songs about how many enemies of the Israelites David had killed and that it would be the best thing for David if he were to turn on the Philistines in the midst of the battle and so win favor with Saul. Achish, for his part, reminds the lords of the Philistines that he has found no fault with David. Neither side is wrong in what they are saying and there is no telling what David might have needed to do had he been backed into the corner of defending Achish from the Israelite army. Fortunately for David, the will of the lords of the Philistines prevailed and David was sent back to his house.

David was playing with fire by being with the enemies of his people. Just by living among them, he felt that he had to lie about where he was raiding in order to be safe. It might have been that God would have caused Achish to be favorably disposed toward David even had Achish known that David was raiding Canaanite towns. After all, David was leaving the Philistines alone and removing potential obstacles to forming new settlements, it might have played well.

It can be the same for me, as a believer. It is possible for me to get myself into places where someone thinks that I am on their side — whether that is by outright lying or omission on my part is not pertinent — and might lead to me being put in situations where I could be asked to act against fellow believers. What would I do if that situation arose? By God’s grace, I cannot think of a time when this has happened in my own life, but it is a sobering thought. It gives me a moment’s reflection to realize that I could be in this sort of predicament and only be let out safely by God’s intervention.

Father, thank You for this warning and for the reminder that You are gracious. Please keep me from situations that might ask me to act against the best interest of Your and Your people.

Adversary. Accuser. (Zechariah 3:1)

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him.

Zechariah 3:1

The footnotes of my Bible tell me that the word translated as Satan can also mean Accuser. From the most holy to the least holy of believers, Satan accuses us. As Christ continually makes intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25), so, too, does Satan continually accuse us. What is both haunting and hopeful in his accusations is that they need not be false. The Accuser could simple recount what I have done on any given day and there is sin and transgression enough to condemn me. But Christ intercedes; steps between for me. Because He has paid for my sins and transgressions on the cross, He is willing and able to step up and dismiss all charges against me. Not because I did no wrong, but because my wrongs have been atoned for.

The footnotes also tell me that the word Satan could be translated as Adversary. In this morning’s verse, Satan stands at Joshua’s right hand. We still have the phrase “right hand man” in English and the person on our right is metaphorically supposed to be our strongest supporter and help. But it is the Adversary who weasels his way to Joshua’s right hand. I suspect he does the same to many a believer. Someone comes along who seems like they want to help; want to be a support and a stay for us. Instead, they end up weakening us. Maybe we win small victories and think that we can handle greater trials on our own. One of the things Sun Tzu wrote about war is that one must appear weakest where he is at his greatest strength and must appear to be losing right before he secures victory. Our Adversary knows this tactic well and uses it to his best advantage.

Application. The Accuser is going to accuse me. He will accuse me to God and God, because of Christ’s work on the cross, is able to dismiss the charges. The Accuser will accuse me to me. If God has already dismissed the charges, I need to do likewise. If I have not yet repented of that thing, then I must repent and move forward. The Adversary is going to come against me. He may, as it was phrased in the movie Serenity, “Sidle up and smile, hit you where you’re weak.” Get inside my guard and make any defense or offense ineffectual. I need to remain vigilant and aware that he is no friend to me ever and he is never as helpless or weak as he seems. He is trying to draw me out; get me to commit to something that leaves me exposed.

It has been said that the price of peace is eternal vigilance. The price of peace with God is the blood of Christ and vigilance on my part to not be deceived by the Adversary and to repent and be made right with God so that the Accuser’s accusations are refuted.

God is Not a Man, that He should Lie (Numbers 23:19)

God is not a man, that He should lie,
Nor a son of man, that He should repent;
Has He said, and will He not do it?
Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?

Numbers 23:19

Multiple times in The Bible the writers record that God “repented” of something He was going to do or “changed His mind”. But this prophecy says that God cannot lie and cannot repent. So which is it?

I think that the answer is a “sorta both”.

See, God is looking from the perspective of Heaven when He speaks. He is looking from the position of One Who knows everything. So His ever intention is as clear to Him as the clearest water. But the writers, people, are looking from the perspective of Earth. Our view is limited, so we speak in terms that make sense to us. Parents (and those who had parents) know the old trick of telling a child that what no one wants to happen will happen unless they do something. For example, the (to the children) unexpected trip to Disneyland the next day is canceled unless everyone cleans their room. Do the parents really want to take away a trip to Disneyland? I don’t think so. A trip like that requires planning and budgeting and, possibly, scheduling days off work — it’s a mess. I can’t think of a single person who would go through all that trouble just to piss it all away on a kid not cleaning their room. However, if the parent has been consistent about following through on statements like that then the child assumes that Disneyland is a non-starter unless his room is clean. From the child’s perspective, his parents have changed their mind and he had something to do with that. From the parents’ perspective, the intent never was to cancel the trip, but to motivate their child to do what should have been done anyway. So, too, does God deal with us, I think. To liken God to the parent and us to the child is to downplay the magnitude of the disparity of understanding between creation (us) and Creator (God), but it serves to illustrate how both could be possible. God did not want to dole out punishments and judgments, but was prepared to do so if the conditions were not met for Him to do what He really wanted to do. Did He repent? Nope. Did He change His mind? Absolutely not. He just did, on a far larger scale what every parent has learned how to do. So, from His perspective, everything went precisely as planned while from our perspective, we changed the mind of God. Funny old thing.

The foregoing is all well and good, but doesn’t really seem to be terribly applicable in day-to-day walking with God. But tucked into that statement is comfort the likes of which is hard to find anywhere else in scripture. See, this prophecy is spoken by Balaam to Balak. Balaam was about as carnal as a believer can get with regard to money while Balak was a Gentile. Me? I’m a Gentile; a non-Jew, so this prophecy — where it is general — is spoken to me just as much as to Balak. God is not a man that He should lie. God is not a politician. And while my illustration of us not really changing the mind of God may sound to some like God lied, just remember that in the illustration both God and the parents were willing to carry out the bad thing they did not want to do. It was a matter of them not wanting to do the bad, but preferring to do the good and both we and the children thinking that we had a direct impact on what happened which, to an extent, we did. God is not a son of man that He should repent. God has nothing to repent of. His thoughts toward people are all good all the time. He wants to do us good, but we refuse to clean our rooms. If I cooperate and do what I’m asked/told, then good things can come — blessings like love and jot and peace and patience (Lord, how impatient I am) and all those good things … and material blessings, too, I suppose (though I’m unconvinced about the extent to which some material things are a blessing). One of the NT writers said that all the blessings of God are “Yes” and “Amen” in Christ. ALL THE BLESSINGS! God does not lie. All the blessings are mine for the asking. So much joy and peace and such that I can’t contain it. Mine for the asking. Kinda overwhelming.