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In my quiet time today, I read from Psalm 63

“O God, you are my God; earnestly I sek you;

my soul thirsts for you;

my flesh faints for you,

as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”

Have you ever been thirsty?  I mean really thirsty?  Have you ever felt so parched that you thought you might collapse?  The answer is to avail yourself of a cool drink of water… and keep it coming until you are satisfied…

Have you ever been spiritually thirsty?  Have you ever felt the dryness of spiritual dehydration?  Have you ever felt like God is so far away and like you cannot go on without His presence?

I have felt this way on more than one occasion.  And I’m not alone.  If you have been a Christian for any length of time, then you have felt this too.

What is the solution to spiritual dehydration?

I have found Psalm 63 to be quite helpful when feeling spiritually dehydrated.  The Psalmist suggests the following actions:

1) Draw near to God in worship (v. 2, 4.)

2) Intentionally remind yourself of the greatness of God’s steadfast love for you in the gospel (i.e. it is “better than life” – v. 3.)

3) Remind yourself of the promises of God (v. 5.)

4) Meditate intentionally on the greatness and glory and grace of God… particularly in the times of greatest darkness in our soul (i.e. “watches of the night” – v. 6.)

5) Remember the past of grace of God  and let this strengthen your trust in the future grace of God (v. 7-8.)

6) Trust in the promise of God that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (v. 9-11 and Romans 8:28.)

This psalm has carried me through some dark times in my life… and I’m sure it will carry me through more dark times to come…

Are you spiritually dehydrated?  Then spend some time meditating on Psalm 63.  I pray that it will satisfy your thirst as it has mine…

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Psalm 119:21 (ESV) – You rebuke the insolent, accursed ones, who wander from your commandments.

Reading through Charles Bridges’ commentary on Psalm 119, I came across the following quote regarding this verse which spoke powerfully to me…

“We wonder not at this expression of the mind of God concerning pride.  There is no sin more abhorrent to His character.  It is as if we were taking the crown from His head, and placing it upon our own.  It is man making a god of himself – acting from himself, and for himself.  Nor is this principle less destructive to our own happiness.  And yet it is not only rooted, but it often rears its head and blossoms, and bears fruit, even in hearts which ‘hate and abhor’ its influence.  It is most like its father, the devil, in serpentine deceitfulness.  It is always active – always ready imperceptibly to mix itself up with everything.  When it is mortified in one shape, it rises in another.  When we have thought that it was gone, in some unexpected moment we find it here still.  It can convert everything into nourishment, even God’s choicest gifts – yea, the graces of His Spirit.  Let no saint, therefore, however near he may be living to God, however favored with the shinings of His countenance – consider himself beyond the reach of this temptation… But can a sinner – can a saint – be proud? – one that owes everything to free and sovereign grace – one that has wasted so much time – abused so much mercy – so grieved the Spirit of God – that has a heart so full of atheism – unbelief – selfishness?  Nay, the very pride itself should be the matter of the deepest daily humiliation.  Thus the remembrance of it may, under Divine grace, prove an effectual means of subduing it in our hearts” (Charles Bridges, An Exposition of Psalm 119, Banner of Truth, pg 46-47.)

He concludes with the following prayer…

“Lord!   Teach us to bless Thee, for even Thy sharp and painful discipline which tends to subjugate this hateful pride of our hearts before our Savior’s cross!” (Bridges, pg, 47-48.)

Amen!

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Scripture speaks of God being “good”, meaning that He is righteous and without sin (i.e. Mk 10:18.)  But Scripture also speaks of God being “good” in the sense of doing good for others.

Is God “good” to people?  Specifically, is God good to His people?  Of course He is.

But what does this mean?

If you watch almost any “Christian” television, then you can’t help but be bombarded by the idea that God is good to His people… and by this they typically mean that God provides physical blessings for His people.  But is this true?  Not necessarily.  Consider the life of Job.  He is said to be “blameless and upright” (Job 1:1), yet look at how much he suffered!  Can we really say that God is “good” to His people?

At the same time, we all know people who blaspheme God on a regular basis who seem to have it all right now.  How is it that God can allow them to experience blessings here and now when they are so adamantly opposed to Him?

Doesn’t it seem like the wicked often prosper while those seeking God struggle and face hardship after hardship?

Does this ever bother you?  It certainly bothers me.  Why do the wicked seem to prosper while God’s people suffer?

I know I’m not alone in being bothered by this.  In fact, the Psalmist Asaph has much to teach us about this issue in Psalm 73.  In this Psalm, he not only addresses the issue itself, but he also gives us some important guidance regarding how to maintain the right perspective as we face trial and difficulties in the midst of the wicked as they prosper.

Psalm 73 (ESV)1  A Psalm of Asaph. Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. 2  But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. 3  For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. 4  For they have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek. 5  They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind. 6  Therefore pride is their necklace; violence covers them as a garment. 7  Their eyes swell out through fatness; their hearts overflow with follies. 8  They scoff and speak with malice; loftily they threaten oppression. 9  They set their mouths against the heavens, and their tongue struts through the earth. 10  Therefore his people turn back to them, and find no fault in them. 11  And they say, “How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?” 12  Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches. 13  All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence. 14  For all the day long I have been stricken and rebuked every morning. 15  If I had said, “I will speak thus,” I would have betrayed the generation of your children. 16  But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, 17  until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end. 18  Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin. 19  How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors! 20  Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms. 21  When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, 22  I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you. 23  Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. 24  You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. 25  Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. 26  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 27  For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you. 28  But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.

We are told that this is a Psalm of Asaph.  Scripture tells us that Asaph was one of the chief choir leaders and seers in Israel during both the reign of David (I Chron 15:16-19).  He was also a man used by God to write sacred Scripture (Psalms 50 and 73-83 are all attributed to him.)  Beyond this, we don’t know much about this man, except that he seems to have been an important religious leader in ancient Israel.

And here we see him proclaiming a great truth about God, “Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart” (Ps 73:1.)  When the Psalmist refers to “Israel” here… he means more than simply the Jewish nation.  Notice how this is in parallel with “those who are pure in heart”?  This doesn’t mean that God is good to those who are perfect, but God is good to those who are faithful to Him.  God is good to those who seek Him and strive to love Him with all their heart, soul, mind and strength.  We could say, “Truly God is good to His people.”

Asaph believes this.  In fact, he is adamant about it.  But notice how his theology does not seem to fit with his experience.  God is good to His people, but “my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped.  For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked” (Ps 73:2-3.)

This is really interesting.  He says that “almost stumbled”… his “steps had nearly slipped.”  This makes it sound like he almost sinned… but didn’t.  Yet, at the same time, we are told that he did fall into sin.  He became “envious” of the arrogant and the wicked.  He coveted the prosperity of the wicked… and covetousness is a sin (Exodus 20:17.)  He saw what they had and he wanted it for himself.  This is sin.  It is failing to be content with what God has given us.

So what does it mean that he “almost stumbled”?  I think it means that he almost spoke out against God before the people… see verse 15… but we’ll get to that in a minute.

Do you ever do this?  Do you ever look around at the prosperity of others and grow envious?  I have to admit that I do.  And this envy can be particularly strong when we see prosperity fall upon those who we think don’t deserve it.

Asaph wrestled with this.  He looked around at those who were not true Israelites seeking God… and he saw their prosperity… and he coveted it.

Notice how he describes the prosperity of the wicked:

1)      They have no pangs until death.” – They don’t seem to suffer in life… or in death.

2)      Their bodies are fat and sleek.” – We tend to think of being “fat” in negative terms, but in the ancient world, this meant that they were well-fed.  Most of us are well-fed today in this country, but this was a constant struggle in the ancient world.  As Asaph looked around, he saw that many of the wicked had more than enough to eat.

3)      They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind.” – They live “hassle-free lives.”  They have it easy.  They don’t struggle to make ends meet.  They don’t face hardship day in and day out like so many others.  They have an easy life.

And the result of this prosperity among the wicked is not thankfulness to God for all that they have received.  No… quite the contrary.  This prosperity only serves to fuel their sinfulness:

1)      Pride is their necklace” (Ps 73:6.)  – Meaning… they wear their arrogance and pride like a badge of honor.  They know that they are better and more deserving than others… and they aren’t afraid to let others know it.

2)      They are violent (Ps 73:6) and it affects every aspect of their being.  They look out for themselves and they don’t care who they have to hurt in order to get ahead.

3)      Their eyes swell out through fatness (Ps 73:7).” – The picture here is of their eyes bulging out of their heads as a result of their excess.  It is hard to know exactly what the imagery is supposed to describe here, but I tend to take this as not so much a physical description of the wicked, but as a poetic way of saying that they are always on the lookout for something more.  It is a way of describing that they are covetous.  They have more than enough… but they are always looking for more.

4)      Their hearts overflow with follies (Ps 73:6).” – They abound with foolish thoughts and desires.

5)      They scoff and threaten and speak with malice toward others (Ps 73:8).

6)      They even speak against heaven… and they boast over all the earth (Ps 73:9).

7)      But the culmination of their wickedness seems to be found in their attitude toward God.  They say, “How can God know?  Is there knowledge in the Most High?” (Ps 73:11) – They don’t seem to believe God is really there and He is really overseeing His universe.  Therefore, they have no problem speaking against Him.

Verse 12 seems to provide a good summary statement of what Asaph sees when he looks at the wicked, “Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches.”

This does often seem to be true, doesn’t it?  We talk about how “nice guys finish last.”  When we look around… it is the arrogant and the wicked who seem to be doing so well.  Doesn’t this seem to accurately describe the “Donald Trump’s” of the world?  The “Hugh Hefner’s?”  But even on a smaller scale… doesn’t this describe a many of our neighbors?  They live as if there is no God… always seeking more and more stuff… unconcerned about who they have to walk over to get it… and yet they seem to abound in prosperity.  They have cars and boats and live relatively healthy lives. 

On the other hand, most of us know godly men and women who live their lives seeking God… and yet they struggle to make ends meet.  They face physical hardships and disease and suffering and death… even though they are striving to honor God with their lives.  Why is it that the wicked prosper and godly men like David Brainerd die in their twenties of tuberculosis?  Why is it that Hugh Hefner can live the ripe old age of… however old he is… thumbing his nose at God… and men like Jim Elliot die a martyrs death while seeking to take the gospel to those who have never heard the good news of Jesus?  Why is it that the “Donald Trump’s” of the world can grow richer and richer and men like the apostle Paul suffer so greatly?

Does this ever bother you? 

Do you ever struggle with this?  I do.  I’m humbled to admit that it bothers me sometimes.  And, at the same time, I’m comforted by the fact that I’m not alone in being bothered by this.  It bothered Asaph, too.

In fact, when he saw the prosperity of the wicked in contrast to the hardships of God’s people… it made him wonder why he even bothers trying to live to for God.  All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence.  For all the day long I have been stricken and rebuked every morning” (Ps 73:13-14.)

Do you hear what he is saying here?  Why have I sought the Lord?  Why do I strive for righteousness when it gets me nothing but hardship.

Have you ever felt this way?  Have you ever felt like it just isn’t worth it?  Why bother trying to live for God, when it doesn’t seem to benefit you in life?

A lot of us “grown-ups” won’t admit this… but I heard this all the time when I was involved in youth ministry.  Young people are often more honest than us adults.  I have had numerous teenagers who professed to be Christians come to me and ask why they should continue to strive for a holy life, when it doesn’t seem do them any good.  “All my friends are having so much fun.  Their lives are easy… and mine is so hard.”

This is exactly how Asaph felt… and I suspect that it is how some of us have felt as well… at least at times.  He saw that the wicked seemed to have it all… and he had nothing.  And it bothered him deeply.

Do you hear the song he is singing?  “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen…Nobody knows my sorrow…”

This is the song he was singing… but notice that he didn’t sing it publicly.  This is how Asaph felt… but notice that he didn’t speak it out before the people.  If I have said, ‘I will speak thus’, I would have betrayed the generation of your children.  I think this is what he is referring to back in verse 2 when he says that he “almost” stumbled.  Here he is… one of the chief choir leaders in the temple in Jerusalem… recognized as a seer by the people… a religious leader among the people of God… yet he was tempted to tell others to forget God and seek the world… but he didn’t.  He did stumble in coveting the prosperity of the world… but God in His grace kept him from causing others to stumble.

I think this should cause us to pause for a minute.  If Asaph… who was no doubt a spiritually mature and godly man… if he could be tempted to speak wrongfully of God to God’s people… then normal Christians like us need to be careful what we say about God.

His feet almost stumbled… his steps nearly slipped… But God was gracious to Asaph and kept him from stumbling with his tongue. 

And this isn’t the only way in which God was gracious to Asaph.  He didn’t simply keep him from falling deeper into sin… although this is really more grace than any of us deserve.  No… God didn’t leave him in this state of confusion…

…when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome (עמל) task” (Ps 73:16.)  He wrestled with this to the point of exhaustion.  This was painful to him.  It resulted in great sorrow.  But God didn’t leave him there.  God granted him some degree of understanding in this matter… and notice how it came…

…when I thought how to understand this”… meaning the prosperity of the wicked in light of the hardships of God’s people… “it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end” (Ps 73:16-17.)

Notice that it was when he entered the sanctuary… the holy place… meaning the temple… that he finally gained some understanding.  It was only when he entered into God’s presence to worship Him rather than fix his gaze on the circumstances of those on earth that he finally gained some perspective. 

And the perspective he gained is illuminating.  He says “then I discerned their end”… meaning the end of the wicked.  Truly you set them in slippery places, you make them fall to ruin.”  In verse 1, Asaph was reflecting on how God is “good” to Israel.  God is “good” to those who are pure in heart.  God is “good” to His people.  But here we see that God responds entirely different to the wicked.  He sets them in a place where they will fall.  God will cause them to fall to ruin.  Even though they seem to have it all right now… their ultimate end is destruction and it will come suddenly.  They will be swept away utterly by terrors.”

Think about the future that awaits those apart from Jesus Christ.  I know it isn’t pleasant… it is heartbreaking.  But think about it for a moment.  What awaits those apart from Jesus Christ?  Nothing but torment forever and ever.  Those whose names are not found written in the Lamb’s Book of Life will be ultimately cast into the lake of fire where they will suffer forever (Rev 20:15.)  It doesn’t matter what they have now.  Cars… houses… boats… health, wealth and prosperity.  It doesn’t matter how much they enjoy now.  All that awaits them is torment.

Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms.”  When we are asleep, our dreams seem real, don’t they?  But as soon as we wake up, they cease to be.  That is what Asaph is saying awaits the wicked.  The prosperity they enjoy here and now is not real… it is only a dream.  And in that day when God visits His wrath upon them… they will be nothing more than phantoms… a vapor… blown away into eternal judgment.

Is this what we think about when we are in the midst of envying the prosperity of the wicked?  No.  We forget this.  We forget where they are headed.  And when we do so… we are thinking and acting foolishly.  Asaph says, “When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you (Ps 73:21-22.)”  Do you see what he is saying?  To covet the temporal blessings of the wicked is to behave toward God like a dumb animal.

I’m ashamed to admit that I have been here at times.  Have you?  It can be pretty humbling to admit this and it can make us feel pretty worthless.  But notice carefully what Asaph says here in verse 23… “Nevertheless… (Ps 73:23.)”  Stop right there.  If you are a Bible-marker, then circle that word.  Let the weight of that word sink in.  Nevertheless.”  Despite the fact that at times we behave no better than dumb animals toward God…I am continually with you; you hold my right hand.  You guide me with your counsel and afterward you will receive me to glory.” 

The world may seem to have so much… but do you see what God’s people have?  We have God Himself. 

1)      We are continually with Him.  We are never apart from Him.  He is with us always even to the end of the age (Matt 28:20.)  He will never leave us nor forsake us (Heb 13:5.) 

2)      God Himself holds our right hand.  Think of a parent holding their child’s hand.  Sometimes they try to pull away from us, but we hold tight to them, don’t we?  We don’t let them go.  We hold them up so that they don’t stumble too badly.  We keep them from straying too far away.  That is how God treats us.  He holds us by the hand and will never let us go.

3)      He guides us with His counsel.  He leads us in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake (Ps 23:3.)  He walks us through this life…

4)      Then afterward… He receives us into His presence in glory forever and ever.  The wicked have nothing to look forward to in eternity… but God’s people have everything to look forward to.

After struggling with this… Asaph begins to understand that although he may not have much now… He has something of even greater value… for he has God Himself.  Whom have I in heaven but you?  And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Ps 73:25-26.)  God is His reward.  Being in the presence of God is His great reward.  As Asaph observes in verses 27 and 28, the wicked will perish… they will be separated from God forever.  But not Asaph.   God will be good to him by always being near to him.

This is important.  What does it mean that “God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart(Ps 73:1)? 

1)      It means that He gives us His presence… both now and forever.  He is our portion.  He is our inheritance.  Our eternal reward is to see Him and dwell in His glorious presence forever in heaven. 

2)      And right now… it is our reward to have Him with us to guide us and strengthen us and protect us and carry us through this life of hardship into eternity.

This is something worth sharing with others… and Asaph realizes this.  God graciously kept Asaph’s mouth closed when he was singing the blues… but now his mouth is open to tell others about the works of God.

Does this describe us?  Do we see God Himself as our ultimate reward… both now and forevermore?

Do we tell others how good God is to us by granting us His presence… both in the good times and the bad?

This is easier said than done… but it should be what we strive for.  As we strive to live for God in a fallen, sin-cursed world… how do keep from becoming envious of the wicked?  How do keep the right perspective as we face hardship in the presence of those who seem to have it all despite their wickedness?

I think there are six things described here which we can do in an effort to keep the right perspective:

1)      Take your eyes of the wicked.  (Ps 73:1-14.)  O how we like to watch them!  We like to see them and ponder the lives that they live.  I think often we are trying to live vicariously through them… seeking the cheap thrill of sin by observing its fleeting pleasure in their lives.  But the more we look at them… the more appealing their sinfulness will become.  They more we look at their “things”… they more we will want their “things.”  Remember the old Sunday School song which goes something like this, “Be careful little eyes what you see… Be careful little ears what you hear…”  We need to remember this… and take our eyes off the wicked.

2)      Draw near to God (Ps 73:17.)  It wasn’t until Asaph drew near to God in the sanctuary that he regained a right perspective.  Avail yourself of the means of grace which God has given to you.  Spend time in His Word and prayer.  But specifically here in Psalm 73:17, I think the focus is in entering God’s presence in worship.  I would tend to apply this today by pointing us all the importance of engaging in the corporate worship of God.  When we gather together for the preaching of the Word and fellowship and singing God’s praises, we build one another up and we are reminded of what the future holds… not only for the wicked… but, also, for us as God’s people.

3)      Which brings us to the third application… Focus on eternity (Ps 73:17-28.)  We tend to become so fixated on the here and now that we forget life is a vapor.  It is here today and it is gone tomorrow.  But eternity is another matter.  Where will you spend eternity?  God is a holy God and He will not tolerate sin in His presence.  And we are all guilty of sin.  We all deserve God’s judgment.  But God in His grace sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to this earth to live and die for sinners, so that we might be set free from the curse of sin and enjoy an eternity with God.  But this is only for those who are born again by the sovereign work of God and who repent of their sin and trust in Jesus.  This determines where we will spend eternity.  Nothing else really matters.  All the things that we accumulate here in this life are irrelevant.  All that matters is whether or not we have Him as our Lord and Savior.  Think about eternity.  Meditate on it often… and you will find that the things of this life seem strangely unimportant.

4)      Fourthly… when we stumble like Asaph did… we need to repent and confess our sins (Ps 73:21-22.)  When we think and act this way… we are committing the sin of covetousness… and we are behaving like dumb animals toward God.  We should confess this and turn away from it… that is what repentance is… turning away from this sin to God… trusting in the promise of God that “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I Jn 1:9.)

5)      Fifth… we need to strive to live life by faith in the future grace of God (Ps 73:23-28.)  Asaph specifically remembers that God is with Him.  God holds his hand.  He is weak… and we are no better.  We need to remember and trust in God because “(Our) flesh and (our) heart may fail, but God is the strength of (our) heart and (our) portion forever.”  We cannot live the Christian life in our own strength.  We must constantly lean on Him.  We must constantly trust in Him.  We must live… every day… by faith that He will uphold us.  We must trust that He is our refuge.  We must rely on Him to keep us faithful… because we can’t stay faithful in our own strength.

6)      Finally… we need to remember to tell others how good our God is (Ps 73:28.)  In the good times and the hard times… we need to continually rehearse for others all that God has done for us and all that God will do for us.  We need to remember the gospel… that Jesus Christ has died for sinners… and we need to tell this to others.  We need to remember and recount for others that “Truly God is good to Israel, to those who”… by His grace found in Jesus Christ… “are pure in heart”… no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in.

 

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Life is hard.  We all experience difficulties in this life.  Contrary to what many “health, wealth and prosperity” teachers will tell us… Scripture teaches that “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (II Tim 3:12.)  Paul says that we must enter the kingdom “through many tribulations” (Acts 14:22.)   Jesus warned His disciples on the night of His betrayal that “In the world you will have tribulation…”  Then He adds a note of hope, “…But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (Jn 16:33.)

Hardship is the experience of all God’s people of all time.  One needs only to casually read the Psalms to see how often hardship and opposition are the experience of God’s people.

How is the Christian to face this hardship?  What are we to do?  Where do we look for help?  The answer is… of course… to look to God, but this is often harder to do than we like to admit.  How do we confidently cast all our cares upon God?  How should we pray?  How can we nurture our faith in the future provision of God as we go through times of darkness and despair? 

Psalm 59 provides us with some helpful insight into how David faced incredible hardship by throwing himself upon the steadfast love of God.

Psalm 59 (ESV)1  To the choirmaster: according to Do Not Destroy. A Miktam of David, when Saul sent men to watch his house in order to kill him. Deliver me from my enemies, O my God; protect me from those who rise up against me; 2  deliver me from those who work evil, and save me from bloodthirsty men. 3  For behold, they lie in wait for my life; fierce men stir up strife against me. For no transgression or sin of mine, O LORD, 4  for no fault of mine, they run and make ready. Awake, come to meet me, and see! 5  You, LORD God of hosts, are God of Israel. Rouse yourself to punish all the nations; spare none of those who treacherously plot evil. Selah 6  Each evening they come back, howling like dogs and prowling about the city. 7  There they are, bellowing with their mouths with swords in their lips– for “Who,” they think, “will hear us?” 8  But you, O LORD, laugh at them; you hold all the nations in derision. 9  O my Strength, I will watch for you, for you, O God, are my fortress. 10  My God in his steadfast love will meet me; God will let me look in triumph on my enemies. 11  Kill them not, lest my people forget; make them totter by your power and bring them down, O Lord, our shield! 12  For the sin of their mouths, the words of their lips, let them be trapped in their pride. For the cursing and lies that they utter, 13  consume them in wrath; consume them till they are no more, that they may know that God rules over Jacob to the ends of the earth. Selah 14  Each evening they come back, howling like dogs and prowling about the city. 15  They wander about for food and growl if they do not get their fill. 16  But I will sing of your strength; I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning. For you have been to me a fortress and a refuge in the day of my distress. 17  O my Strength, I will sing praises to you, for you, O God, are my fortress, the God who shows me steadfast love.

The setting of this Psalm is found in I Samuel 19:9-17.  King Saul, as a result of the judgment of God (i.e. he is afflicted by a “harmful spirit from the LORD”), is irrationally jealous of his son-in-law, David, and is seeking to kill him.  David is holed up in his house with no one but his wife to help him and Saul’s cronies seeking his life.  Things look pretty grim.  Though David was no slouch in terms of his skill in combat, the odds against him are incredible.  Not only do his enemies outnumber him, but they are wicked and vicious in their opposition.  In Psalm 59, David pictures his oppressors as evil and bloodthirsty (v. 2.)  They are likened to wild animals, prowling about, seeking an opportunity to spring upon their prey (v. 3, 6, 14 and 15.)  They are ungodly men (notice how the Psalmist calls them “the nations” in v. 5, implying that they live and behave as pagans) who do not think that anyone or anything can stand in their way (v. 7.)  At the heart of their wickedness is a lack of understanding (or a rejection of the right understanding?) of who God is, for they do not know “that God rules over Jacob to the ends of the earth” (v. 13.)

Let’s pause here for a moment and compare David’s situation with our own experiences today as God’s people.  Unlike David, most of us today (at least those in the United States) do not have people actively seeking to kill us.  Praise God for the religious freedom which we enjoy in this country!  But we do experience hostility and opposition on a continual basis.  Scripture teaches that our primary enemies in the Christian life are the world (which hates us – Jn 15:18-20), our own sinful flesh (which wars against the Holy Spirit within us – Gal 5:17– and will ultimately lead us to death if we yield to it – Rom 8:6), and the devil (who prowls around… not unlike David’s enemies… like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour – I Pet 5:8.)  In addition to this, we face all manner of hardship and opposition simply by virtue of the fact that we live in a fallen, sin-cursed world.  We face tribulation and distress and persecution and famine and nakedness and danger and sword (Rom 8:35.)  We endure sickness and strife and weakness and, of course, death.  Even though many of these may not be flesh-and-blood enemies… are they any less our enemies?  Do they not surround us?  Do they not seek to overwhelm us?  Do they not lie in wait for us?  Are we really any different than David?  Don’t we all have enemies which surround us in the Christian life… enemies which we have no means of overcoming in our own strength?

How did David cope with the overwhelming opposition set before him?  He turned to God in faith and prayer.  David’s hope was not ultimately grounded in himself.  His hope was in God.  Despite the strength and wickedness of his enemies, he is confident in the strength of God to deliver him.  David knows God… not just intellectually, but experientially.  He had a keen sense of who His God is.  He recognizes here that God is sovereign over all the earth (v. 13) and those who oppose Him and His people are the subjects of His scorn (v. 8.)  He is the LORD God of hosts… the great and all-powerful Warrior God who fights the battles of His people (v. 5.)  God has been David’s fortress and refuge in times past and he confidently expects God to act on his behalf again in the future (v. 16-17.) 

It is this confidence in God which leads him to prayer.  David cries out expectantly to God to “deliver” him (נצל literally “to snatch him away”) (v. 1.)  He prays that God will protect him (שׂגב– literally “set on high”, i.e. lift him up above the reach of his enemies) (v. 1.)  He prays that God will save him from his bloodthirsty enemies (v. 2.)  He calls upon God to “awake, come to meet me and see!” (v. 4.)  In the midst of his trials, David pours out his soul before God and it is as if he says, “Arouse Yourself, Almighty God, and draw near to me!  See my trials!  See my enemies and take action to save me!  Snatch me up out of their midst and whisk me away to safety!

This prayer of David’s is not simply a collection of empty words.  He fully expects God to hear and deliver Him. 

Psalm 59:9-10 (ESV)9  O my Strength, I will watch for you, for you, O God, are my fortress. 10  My God in his steadfast love will meet me; God will let me look in triumph on my enemies.

Notice how the Psalmist is actively “keeping watch” (שׁמר) for God.  He expects God to show up!  His faith is strong that God will draw near to Him.  He is confident that God will cause him to look upon his enemies in their defeat.

How does David cultivate this confidence in God?  By looking back upon the past grace which God has poured out upon him.

Psalm 59:16-17 (ESV)16  But I will sing of your strength; I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning. For you have been to me a fortress and a refuge in the day of my distress. 17  O my Strength, I will sing praises to you, for you, O God, are my fortress, the God who shows me steadfast love.

David looks forward expectantly to a future time when he will “sing of (God’s) strength… (and) steadfast love in the morning” (i.e. after the time of darkness has passed by.)  He is confident of this future deliverance because “you have been to me a fortress and refuge in the day of my distress.”  He is confident in the future experience of God’s steadfast love and salvation because of the past experience of God’s steadfast love and salvation.  In other words, by looking to the past, he is strengthened in his faith for the future.

O how quick we are to forget the past experience of God’s steadfast love.  If we will only remember what God has done for us, then how can we not be confident in the future grace of God?  The Apostle Paul sums this up better than probably anyone in Romans 8:32

Romans 8:32 (ESV)32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

Since God has willingly… graciously… lovingly… sacrificed His only Son for us… then how can we ever doubt that He will graciously and lovingly provide for us in the days to come?

David understands the undying nature of God’s steadfast love better than most.  He remembers how God has been gracious to him in the past and, therefore, he confidently brings his request for deliverance before God… fully expecting that God will answer him.

Is this how we respond to our “enemies”?  Whether they are flesh-and-blood enemies or circumstances brought about by living in a sinful world… do we approach our God boldly in prayer with a confidence grounded in the past actions of His grace?

Some might argue that this was appropriate for David, but not for us today.  After all, David was God’s anointed king.  Surely he had rights which we cannot claim today?  Although there is some truth to this (David is a unique figure in redemptive history), notice that in verse 11 David calls the LORD “our Shield.”  Don’t miss this!  The LORD is not simply David’s Shield.  No!  He is the Shield of all His people.  If you are a Christian… then He is your Shield and mine as well.  By giving His only Son, Jesus, for us, God has demonstrated His steadfast love for us.  He has been our Shield against His own wrath and has ultimately delivered us from all our enemies… whoever or whatever they might be.  We… just like David… can boldly approach the throne of grace and cry out for mercy to help in time of need (Heb 4:16.)  This should be our response to our “enemies.”   Life is hard.  In fact, the Christian life is impossible in our own strength.  Our enemies are great, but our God is greater.  Whatever trials we face in life, may this prayer be upon our lips in faith…

Deliver me from my enemies, O my God.  Protect me from those who rise up against me.  Deliver me from those who work evil and save me from bloodthirsty men.  Arouse Yourself, O God, and take notice of my need.  Come to meet me and see my distress.  You are the LORD God of Hosts.  You are my Defender and Fortress, my Strength and Refuge and Shield.  Strengthen my faith in Your future deliverance!  Remind me of Your steadfast love!  Never let me forget the greatness of Your love and strength on my behalf!  Carry me through the time of darkness so that I might sing aloud Your praises in the morning.  Amen.

 

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In his song “Good People”, Jack Johnson asks a question that I think many of us are asking today:

Where’d all the good people go?
I’ve been changing channels
I don’t see them on the TV shows

Where have all the “good” people gone? 

Now I want to be clear and define my terms.  I am not using the term “good” in a theological sense.  There is none good, no not one (Rom 3:12.) There is none good but God (Lk 18:19.)  All of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23.)  We are sinners by birth and by choice and therefore there are none who are “good” in the theological sense.

However, I’m not talking about sinless perfection here, but where are the people striving for any semblance of morality?  Where are the defenders of “truth, justice and the American way” (as they used to say on the old Superman tv show)?  They seem to be in very short supply today.  We certainly don’t see them on the television.  Whether it is fictional entertainment or news programs (don’t even get me started on “reality tv”?)… where have all the “good” people gone? 

Let’s face it, the world in which we live seems to be being growing more and more hostile to morality all the time… therefore, it is hostile to those who are followers of Christ.   We desire to live lives which give glory to God by reflecting His character of holiness and righteousness.  We do that imperfectly in this life, but that is the goal which we pursue by faith in God’s grace.  This pursuit of God and His holiness is increasingly incompatible with the American culture in which we find ourselves.  This incompatibility results in strife and ever-increasing suppression and affliction by the world around us.

What are we to do?  Where does our hope lie in the midst of world devoid of “goodness”?

This is not a new problem.  It has been a problem faced by God’s people since the fall of mankind (Gen 3.)  In Psalm 12, we see a helpful example of how we should respond to living in a world without “good” people.

Psalm 12 (ESV) – 1 To the choirmaster: according to The Sheminith. A Psalm of David. Save, O Lord, for the godly one is gone; for the faithful have vanished from among the children of man. 2 Everyone utters lies to his neighbor; with flattering lips and a double heart they speak. 3 May the Lord cut off all flattering lips, the tongue that makes great boasts, 4 those who say, “With our tongue we will prevail, our lips are with us; who is master over us?” 5 “Because the poor are plundered, because the needy groan, I will now arise,” says the Lord; “I will place him in the safety for which he longs.” 6 The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times. 7 You, O Lord, will keep them; you will guard us from this generation forever. 8 On every side the wicked prowl, as vileness is exalted among the children of man.

There are three things to see here:

1)      The Problem

2)      The Petition

3)      The Provision

First, notice the problem faced by the Psalmist.  “…the godly one is gone; for the faithful have vanished from among the children of man” (verse 1.)  Those who were seeking God and were faithful to Him had vanished from the world around the Psalmist.  They went missing and could not be found.  And in their place was found nothing but wickedness.  “On every side the wicked prowl, as vileness is exalted among the children of man” (verse 8.)  Everywhere the Psalmist looked, there was nothing but sinfulness.  The wicked prowl about… back and forth… looking for opportunities to engage in their wickedness.  And they not only engage in wickedness, they “exalt” (רוּם) in vileness.  They are proud of their sinfulness.  They lift it up for the whole world to see.

The root of this sinfulness is found in verse 4 where the wicked are trusting in themselves (specifically their ability to manipulate with their speech, i.e. “tongues” and “lips”) and they say, “Who is master over us?” (v. 4.)  They deny that there is any greater Master than themselves.  They are aligning themselves with the “fools” found in Psalm 14:1 who claim that there is no God.  They are in control of their own lives.  They believe there is no one greater than them.  This has a serious impact on their actions.  If there is no God, then they can do whatever they want, as long as it benefits them, because there are no ultimate consequences for their actions.

This sounds awfully similar to the way in which the Apostle Paul describes the human race in Romans 1:

Romans 1:18-23, 28-32 (ESV) – 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things… 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

Although there is much that could be said about this passage of Scripture… to sum it all up in as compact a form as possible… sinful human beings (like us) naturally deny the existence of God and choose to give honor to creation rather than God, therefore God has given humanity over to sinfulness to the point that we not only sin, but we “give approval” to those who sin.  We exalt in vileness, as the Psalmist says in Psalm 12:8.

The Psalmist gives us a practical illustration of how this “vileness” and “wickedness” manifests itself in the world, specifically through the misuse of speech.  “Everyone” lies and flatters others seeking their own gain and are hypocritical (i.e. “double heart”) (v. 2.)  There is a selfishness which pervades the world at large and those who are striving for godliness are easy prey for those who capitulate to the sinfulness of the world around them.

There is one final thing we should notice about the problem described here.  It is universal.  The godly and faithful are gone from “among the children of man” (v. 1.)  They are nowhere to be found.  Everyone” speaks wickedly (v. 2.)  It is “this generation” that is opposing the righteous in verse 7.  The wicked prowl and vileness is exalted “among the children of man” (v. 8.)  In other words, this sinfulness is everywhere.  The Psalmist finds himself surrounded by this evil and there seems to be nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.

Does this describe us?  It seems as if we are often all alone in the midst of a wicked world.  The godly and faithful are gone.  Everyone sins with their lips.  Those committed to faithfully seeking and serving God (imperfectly in this life… but still committed to Him) are easy prey for those who live according to their own selfish desires.

What can we do?

The Psalmist answers that question for us in his petitions here in this Psalm.

Save, O LORD…” (v. 1.)  The Psalmist cries out to God to save him from this wicked generation.  He knows that his only hope lies… not in himself… or in the few godly who may (or may not) be near him.  His hope lies in God alone.  He cries out for God to bring about salvation on his behalf.

Secondly, he asks God to remove wickedness from the earth.  May the LORD cut off all flattering lips, the tongue that makes great boasts, those who say, ‘With our tongue we will prevail…’” (v. 3-4.)  The Psalmist is praying for a complete removal of sinfulness from the earth.  Although the Psalmist seems to be specifically praying for judgment to fall upon the wicked, this is really not that much different than Jesus’ instruction to His disciples regarding praying in the Lord’s Prayer:

Matthew 6:9-10 (ESV) – 9 Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

The Psalmist is praying for a day when those who deny God will be removed from the earth so that only God’s will is done on earth.  He longs for that day when the righteousness of God is displayed in every aspect of the world.

Is this where we go as we stand alone in the midst of a sinful world?  Do we look to God to protect us?  Do we look to God to fix the problems of the world around us?  This is not to say that we should not be actively involved in opposing the wickedness of the world around us, but ultimately it is God who must overthrow sin in the world.  Sin is too powerful and too pervasive for us to ever hope to be victorious over it in this world.  God alone can overthrow the vileness of our world.  It is only by the blood of the Lamb of God that the world is overcome (Rev 12:11.)  We must come to Him in faith and pray that He will do what can never do in our own strength and rid this world of sin.

One day, God will judge the wicked.  This is the final thing we see here in Psalm 12.  We see God’s provision for His people in a world of wickedness.

’Because the poor (or “afflicted” – עָנִי in Hebrew) are plundered, because the needy groan, I will now arise,’ says the LORD.  ‘I will place him in the safety (or “salvation” – יֵשַׁע) for which he longs” (v. 5.)  God is speaking here and He promises to deliver those who are afflicted and needy and put them in a place of salvation.  There will one day be a great reversal of fortunes.  The wicked, who prosper now, will be overthrown and those who are afflicted for the sake of righteousness will be lifted up.  God will do so because of His righteousness.  It is wrong for God’s people to be abused and mistreated.  Therefore, God will take action on their behalf.

This promise is absolutely trustworthy.  In sharp contrast to the words of the wicked, “The words of the LORD are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times” (v. 6.)  God’s promise is absolutely true and pure.  There is no falsehood in it. There is no hypocrisy in it.  There is nothing impure in it for it is like perfectly refined silver.

I must admit that I am often guilty of forgetting this.  It is easy to affirm the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture in the context of a Bible study or church service.  But to hold fast to the promises of God in the midst of trial and tribulation is not easy.  It is incredibly hard at times.  O how we need to remember (at least I do) that God’s promises are absolutely true and trustworthy!  And He has promised that all things will work together for the good of those love Him and are called according to His purpose (Rom 8:28.)

The Lord has promised good to me,

His word my hope secures;

He will my shield and portion be

As long as life endures” (John Newton, Amazing Grace.)

This is the Psalmist’s hope.  You, O LORD, will keep them (i.e. His people); You will guard us from this generation forever” (v. 7.)  Note the word “forever.”  No matter what comes our way… no matter how dark the world around us… no matter how scarce the godly and faithful might be… no matter how great the affliction upon the righteous… our great and all-powerful God will keep us and guard us forever.

Where have all the “good” people gone?  They have gone the way that is natural to all of us apart from God.  They have descended to the level of their sinful, depraved hearts due to their denial of God.  And God’s people are often prey for them.

What is our hope and salvation in the midst of this sinful world?  It is God Himself.  In His righteousness, He will deliver His people forever and, one day, He will rid the world of sin and establish His kingdom of perfect righteousness forevermore.

How should we respond to those who walking according to the ways of the world around us?  We should affirm that a day of judgment is coming. Although those who live according to their own standard seem to get ahead in this world for now, the day is coming when God will hold them accountable for their sin.  The only way to be saved from the righteous judgment of God to come is to forsake our sin and turn to God for the salvation which is found in Jesus Christ alone.

May we not fall into fear and despair as a result of the sinfulness of this world, but may we look to the future and hope in God who has promised good to us forever and ever!

 

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Psalm 28 (ESV) – 1 Of David. To you, O LORD, I call; my rock, be not deaf to me, lest, if you be silent to me, I become like those who go down to the pit. 2 Hear the voice of my pleas for mercy, when I cry to you for help, when I lift up my hands toward your most holy sanctuary. 3 Do not drag me off with the wicked, with the workers of evil, who speak peace with their neighbors while evil is in their hearts. 4 Give to them according to their work and according to the evil of their deeds; give to them according to the work of their hands; render them their due reward. 5 Because they do not regard the works of the Lord or the work of his hands, he will tear them down and build them up no more. 6 Blessed be the Lord! For he has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy. 7 The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him. 8 The Lord is the strength of his people; he is the saving refuge of his anointed. 9 Oh, save your people and bless your heritage! Be their shepherd and carry them forever.

We don’t know much about the circumstances facing the Psalmist here, but it seems that he was being persecuted by wicked men.  Or perhaps he felt drawn to associate with the wicked and was tempted to follow them down the road of destruction.  Either way, the Psalmist’s well-being (both spiritual and physical) was threatened by evil men around him.

So where does he go in times of trial?  To God… “To You, O LORD, I call” (28:1.)  The Psalmist depends upon God as he faces these trials in life.  In fact, the Psalmist seems to be desperately dependent upon God.  He recognizes that if God does not answer him, then he will “go down to the pit” (בּוֹר – a symbol of the grave, compare to Psalm 30:3.)  In other words, the Psalmist acknowledges that, apart from the grace and mercy of God, he will suffer the same fate as evildoers, which he describes as being (1) dragged away by God (28:3), (2) receiving the just rewards of his wickedness (28:4) and (3) being torn down and built up no more (28:5.)  This is the fate which the Psalmist is hoping to avoid and his hope rests fully in the God of all mercy.

As I pondered this, I thought about how often I forget this.  It is so easy to fall into an attitude of self-righteousness and begin to think that I am somehow better than the ungodly around me.  But this is so untrue.  Apart from the grace of God in Christ Jesus, I am worthy of nothing but damnation.  Praise God for my Savior who stood condemned in my place so that I might be saved forevermore!

The Psalmist seems to recognize quite clearly that his hope rests solely in God.  In fact, despite his circumstances, he is confident that God has heard his cry for mercy (28:6) and his confidence expresses itself in three ways:

1)      His heart trusts in God.

2)      His heart exults in God.

3)      He gives thanks to God in song.

Notice that the internal response of the Psalmist is described first.  He trusts in God and exults in Him “in his heart”… within the inner recesses of his being… and this results in the external expression of praise to God in song.

This response of the Psalmist is grounded in the absolute fact that “the LORD is my strength and my shield” (28:7.)  God is the source of his strength and his protector.  And this is not only true for the Psalmist, but for all God’s people… “The LORD is the strength of His people” (28:8.)  He is the Shepherd of His people and will carry them forever (28:9.)

I can only speak for myself, but too often I am self-reliant.  This can only lead to self-righteousness and pride and all manner of sin.  Apart from the grace and mercy of God, I can do nothing but “go down to the pit.”  God alone is my Rock… my Strength… my Shield.

I need to be reminded of this regularly.  I need to cultivate desperation for God like we see in the Psalmist here… “if You be silent to me, I become like those who go down to the pit.”

How about you?

What better way is there to remind ourselves of this than to preach the gospel to ourselves regularly?  We all need to be reminded… daily… of our inherent sinfulness and need of a Savior.  We all need to live each moment wholly dependent upon the grace and mercy of God as found in Jesus Christ… lest we go down to the pit apart from God.

Preach the gospel to yourself!  And trust in the God who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all.  How will He not also with Him freely give us all things? (Rom 8:32.)  With this fresh in our minds… how can we not join with the Psalmist in saying “The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him!!!?”

 

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Psalm 53:1-3 (ESV) – 1 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity; there is none who does good. 2 God looks down from heaven on the children of man to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. 3 They have all fallen away; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.

I am often a fool.  We all are.  This is our natural state… to be foolish.

The Psalmist here describes foolishness as saying in our hearts… not necessarily out loud, but in the inner recesses of our being… that there is no God.  Be careful here.  This is not intellectual atheism.  This is experiential atheism.  This is more than believing there is no God.  It is living as if there is no God.

The result of inwardly denying the existence and presence of God is sin.  The fool is corrupt and defiled.  He commits abominable iniquity.  And we are all guilty.  “There is none who does good.”

This is important for us to note. What we think about God matters.  It affects everything else in our lives.  I can only speak personally here, but the times when I stumble into sin are almost always marked by a forgetful attitude toward God.  Or… even worse… my sin is the result of my willful belief that God is either not watching or that He is not going to act against my sin.  (Forgive me, Lord!)

Psalm 139 is clear that we can never get away from the presence of God (just ask Jonah if you are not convinced!)  Here in Psalm 53:2, we are told that God is watching.  He continuously looks down from heaven to see if there are “any who understand.”  The Hebrew verb here rendered “understand” (שָׂכַל -pronounced saw-kal) means to be prudent, understanding or wise (Strongs, שָׂכַל.)  In the parallelism of verse 2, being wise or understanding is described as “seek[ing] after God.”  A wise man, in contrast to the fool, seeks the God he knows is there.  Rather than denying His presence and existence and going his own way, the wise man is constantly pursuing the God who is there.

Unfortunately, there is no one who fits this bill.  We are all fools.  Verse 3 tells us that “They have all fallen away; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.”  Without exception, we are all fools.  Sin is a universal problem because we all lack a true knowledge of God.  We are all sinners because, on some level, we all inwardly deny the God of the Bible and fail to seek Him passionately at all times.  Compare this to Romans 1:19-22

Romans 1:19-22 (ESV) – 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them (i.e. all humanity), because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they (i.e. again… all humanity) are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools,

What is the problem described here in Romans 1?  The same as in Psalm 53:1-3.  We know God is there, but we tell ourselves He is not.  The result is foolishness and sin.  (Keep reading Romans 1 and see how corrupt and abominable our deeds become…)

Sin is not only the cause of our separation from God.  Sin is also the result of our separation from God. We are all sinners because, on some level, we all inwardly deny the God of the Bible and fail to seek Him passionately at all times.  Unless God does something gracious and miraculous and changes our hearts and reconciles us to Himself, we can never be right with God.  This is the great promise of the New Covenant purchased for us by the blood of Jesus Christ upon the cross:

Ezekiel 36:25-28 (ESV) – 25 I (God is speaking here…) will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. 28 You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.

It is God who overcomes our foolishness.  He changes our hearts and causes us to grow in personal holiness so that we commit fewer and fewer acts of corruption and iniquity (i.e. “walk in my statutes.”)  And the end result of this change of heart is a personal and permanent relationship with God (“you shall be My people and I will be your God.”)  The final result of this inward change produced in us by God is that we do not say, “there is no God”, but we rejoice in the fact that we are His people and He is our God!

On a practical level, this teaches me that my knowledge of God and my personal, ongoing relationship with Him has a direct impact on my life.  When I am actively trusting in Him and acknowledging His presence in, around and through me and seeking Him passionately… then sin will be less prevalent in my life.  I say less prevalent because I will never be able to do this perfectly in this life.  But I can strive for this… trusting in the promise of God to give me a new heart and cause me to walk in His statutes (Ezek 36:25-28.)

I need to remember that naturally… apart from God… I am a fool.  How about you?

 

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