Thursday, March 15, 2018

March 15: Psalm 58; How the Wicked Are Like Slugs

            Let the wicked become “Like a slug melting away as it moves along … may they not see the sun” (Ps 58:8 NIV). David didn’t show a lot of sympathy for wicked people in this Psalm. However, what he says is true not only of them but those of us who were once counted in their position. Before coming to Christ, we thought righteous people were the bad ones and we judged them, calling them self-righteous. The truth is that we aren’t self-righteous but God-righteous because our righteousness isn’t our own, it is God’s given to us by faith in Jesus (Rom 6:22).
            Back to the wicked and the way we were, we were wicked from birth. We spoke lies all the time because our father, Satan, is the father of lies (John 8:44). But now, we who have faith in Jesus are blameless in God’s sight and have been adopted by God though Jesus Christ (Eph 1:4-5). We previously stopped up our ears so that we wouldn’t hear God’s word and we were blinded to the truth, but by the power of the Holy Spirit the veil was lifted when we turned to the Lord.
            Then David goes ballistic and wants God to wipe out wicked people. Before we judge David too harshly, we need to see that he’s talking about people who are trying to do harm to others. The wicked “aims his arrows” (Ps 58:7). We want those who are taking aim and shooting people in public places, schools, and at work to stop also. We also would like God to stop them. However, we also recognize that saving them would be much better than having God tear out their teeth.
            If we don’t do something to help them, like sharing the gospel, what will happen to them? They will melt away like a slug. Their path in the sun will shimmer for a while but it will dry up and any slug caught in the sun will shrivel and die. That’s a pretty good picture of what will happen to anyone who doesn’t turn to Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins and eternal life.

March 14: Numbers 22:9-20; The Balaam in Us

            Balaam is introduced to us in Number 22 as person who had a very unique relationship with God at that time in history. We’ve read how God spoke to Moses, but he also spoke to Balaam so that he was able to bless or curse people and the Lord would do it. He was able to do it because he said that he would only do as the Lord commanded him (Num 22:18). He had a two-way conversation with God where God came to him and asked him who had came to him. Balaam answers that they are Moabites who want him to curse a people who came out of Egypt. God told him not to go with the Moabites because he had already blessed the people who was Israel.
            You would think that would be the end of the story because Balaam obeyed. However, when we are dealing with the devil’s schemes, our initial obedience is often tested and that’s exactly what happened with Balaam. The Moabites came back and offered even more treasures if Balaam would go with them to curse Israel. On the surface, it seems that Balaam was still being obedient, but true obedience would have been to tell the Moabites he wouldn’t go because God had already spoken. But no, Balaam leaves room for God to change his mind, after all there was a lot of treasures to be gained. Indeed, God tells Balaam to go with the men, but he must do only what the Lord tells him. We often go back to God and look for loopholes to do what we want.
            It is evident that Balaam’s heart is not in conformity with his outward obedience and that is how we are when we are getting ready to sin. We do what the Lord wants on the outside but on the inside, we would much rather do what we want. God sees that in us and he saw it in Balaam. You know the most famous part of the story where God sends an angel to kill Balaam on the way, but Balaam’s donkey rescues him and even speaks to him. God got Balaam’s attention. He does the same with us. It may not be as dramatic, but it starts in our conscience and sometimes goes on to include stressful relationships, and other consequences of our sinful attitudes and actions. Balaam listened to the angel and made up his mind to say only what the Lord wanted regardless of the temptations to do what he wanted and get the Moabites’ reward.
            I am struck by Balaam’s faithfulness in the next chapters as he blesses Israel at the Lord’s command. He utters word that I’ve memorized to remind me that God is immutable, he doesn’t change (Num 23:19). Even though God knew Balaam’s heart, which was full of greed, God made sure that Balaam fulfilled his purpose when he pronounced a coming Messiah to bless Israel and destroy Moab (Num 24:17).
             Yet, Balaam still found a way to get his evil gain. He taught the Moabites how to entice Israel with sexual immorality and eating the sacrifices to other gods (Rev 2:14). Even when we repent of our sins, we have the ability to do as Balaam did and find another way of sinning. We can’t assume that once a temptation has passed it will never come again. But we have one thing that Balaam didn’t have. We have the Holy Spirit living in us and we can “cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me” (Ps 57:2). God fulfilled his purpose in Balaam, which ended in his death (Num 31:8). But God’s purpose for us is to become more like Jesus (Rom 8:29).

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

March 13: Proverbs 11:8; Who Is in Trouble

The righteous is delivered from trouble, and the wicked walks into it instead.

            If you look around the world and see Christians being beheaded and persecuted in various ways, you would wonder how this proverb makes any sense. Aren’t righteous people promised deliverance not only in this proverb but in many other places in the Bible? Psalm 5:12 assures us that the Lord blesses the righteous and his favor is like a shield around him. So how do we explain what we see around us in light of these and many other verses that promise deliverance?
            My standard answer is to point to Jesus who said we would be blessed when persecuted (Matt 5:10-12) and to Paul’s warning that if we want to live righteous lives, we will be persecuted (2 Tim 3:12). Then I noticed Peter’s writing where he says, “the righteous is scarcely saved” (1 Peter 4:18). Maybe it isn’t as clear cut as I thought. Deliverance isn’t easy. I also noticed that there are similar passages to Proverbs 11:8 such as Proverbs 12:13. Rather than looking for a physical rescue and deliverance, there is a very clear picture that our deliverance isn’t necessarily physical but spiritual.
            What happens to the wicked? They are not spared from their deceitful plans. They go right ahead and do what they want all their lives and where do they end up? You don’t have to guess because it is clear that they will perish in hell if they don’t repent (Luke 13:3).
            Jesus talked about the gate that leads to destruction being wide by the way to salvation is narrow (Matt 7:13-14). From this proverb, I can visualize a person walking down the path who. He sees both gates and starts for the wide gate when Jesus appears and guides him to the narrow one. He thanks Jesus and enters into life. Another man also walks toward the wide gate and Jesus stops to point him to the narrow gate. He shoves Jesus aside and confidently strides through the wide gate into his eternal abode in hell.
            We can follow Jesus and be delivered from trouble or ignore him and walk into it.