Monthly Archives: July 2018

Trust

Meditations on the Psalms

Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the LORD.(Psalm 4:5 ESV)

Sacrifices and offerings mean nothing when there is self-focus, not on the Object of the gift. A self-focus shows the thinking of the heart is not on God but on an idol. What can this idol do for me? How can I influence or control this idol to act in my favor? Self-absorbed offerings to God dishonor Him. This is why slaughtering a righteous sacrifice is important and why that offering must first be the person presenting the gift.

The writer of Hebrews gives a lengthy and concise description of the sacrifice of Christ shown in the sacrificial ordinances of the Mosaic Law. These sacrifices pointed to Christ and are fulfilled in Him. “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God” (Hebrews 13:15-16 ESV). Our righteous sacrifices and offerings are no longer clean animals but ourselves, abandoned to Him, living in the world as a testament to Him as He prepares us for eternity.

Though the Psalms show the thinking of the heart of Jesus Christ as He lived and ministered in the world and His trust in God, this is the first time in the Psalms the word trustis used. Trust means to have confidence in and to be bold for the Object of trust, because one is secure and safe in His presence. Trust is one of the basic elements of faith. Faith is always in an object one believes has worked and made promises and demands obedience.

Believing is the intellectual element of knowing the truth of God’s works in creation. Obedience is the willful, volitional element doing that which is a natural, essential part of the image of God in obeying the direction given. Trust is the emotional-moral element based on the promises of God. All three elements make up faith. Remove or lessen the action of any one of the elements and faith becomes something other than faith. It is always the Object which determines the truthfulness of faith. Only God can deliver that which He promises. No idol can ever promise anything let alone deliver on a promise. Idolatry becomes the person infusing a non-living, non-existent, or demonic entity with a fantasy promise based on a superstitious and unfounded belief.

Jesus was the only person who has ever lived who both completely trusted God and made promises to us only He can keep. Speaking to His disciples about Lazarus, Jesus declared He was going to raise him from the dead. “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him” (John 11:11 ESV). Jesus told Martha that those who believed in Him, which means trust Him, will not die spiritually. This declaration is a promise. “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26 ESV). There are two more incidents which follow the raising of Lazarus found within the context of the story. Jesus promises that those who follow Him and serve Him will be with Him in eternity. “If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him” (John 12:26 ESV).

Jesus worked to glorify God. His promise follows God’s voice, thundering from heaven, that God will glorify His name and the Name of His Son. “But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again” (John 12:27-28 ESV). Jesus then promises to draw all people to Himself as He is crucified, hanging on the cross. He also promises to defeat the Deceiver. “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:30-32 ESV).

Jesus trusted God. Facing physical trauma, being tortured to death, produced emotional reactions from Him. He agonized over completing God’s will on the cross.

“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. (Luke 22:42-44 ESV)

Trust is an emotional act of the will believing that God will fulfill the promises He has made. We can trust God because Jesus trusted God. God always delivers what He promises.

Advertisements

Jesus Commissions Peter

Studies in First Peter

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:1 ESV)

John 21:15-17

Jesus never condemned Peter for any of his misstatements or compulsive actions. He rebuked Peter on many occasions. He predicted Peter would run away from Him during His arrest, just as all of His disciples fled. Jesus also knew Peter would verbally deny Him before those who wanted Him dead. Knowing what Peter would do does not mean Peter lost his position as the unofficial leader of the disciples. Peter did not need to be reinstated as a disciple because he had never lost his position as a disciple. Judas lost his position as a disciple when he murdered himself.

We are enabled to come to Jesus only because God draws us to Him.  Jesus calls everyone to come to Him, and those who are willing, respond. His call is not a request but a command. Those who respond do so out of obedience to God’s command. Those who do not come do so out of rebellion and hatred for God. God does everything needed for redemption, yet each person must still obey.

Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves Him. Why three times? Could it be Jesus is responding to Peter’s three denials, which Jesus predicted?

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” 

He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.”

He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”

He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” 

He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.”

He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”

He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” 

Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” (John 21:15-17 ESV)

In this passage there are two words used for love. The first word is agapao, which means Godly, or high and devoted love. The second word is phileo, or love as a friend and can mean to kiss.  Jesus asks the first two times “do you agapao me” and Peter answers “yes, I phileo you.” Finally, Jesus meets Peter at his level and asks him “do you phileo me” and Peter answers in kind.  Jesus is challenging Peter’s love and Peter is grieved, or “cut to the heart” by Jesus’ questions.

Jesus, after each question, gives Peter a command. After the first question Peter is to “feed my lambs” and then to “feed my sheep.”  To feed means to give nourishment. It is the same word used when Jesus cast out Legion from the demoniac and there were pigs feeding nearby (see Matthew 8:30, Mark 5:11, Luke 8:32). Peter is to provide spiritual nourishment for those people who are new followers of Christ as well as those who are more mature in their faith. After the second question about Peter’s love, Jesus tells him to “tend my sheep” which means to govern or rule, to cherish as one’s own body and to serve the flock or Church. Christ is the head of His body, the Church. “And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:22-23 ESV; see also Colossians 1:18). It is Peter’s work to be a fisher of men and to lead those so caught in their relationship with Christ.

Jesus uses both words, agapao and phileo, throughout His teaching, referring to the love God has for those created in His image and the love they return to Him because of their nature. It is the divine nature of man created in the image of God to love, agapao, those also created in His image. Even those who are considered the enemies of God are of such great value they are loved by God. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:43-45 ESV). In addition, those who are His show the evidence of their love for God through their obedience to His commands.

Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”

Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?”

Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me. (John 14:21-24 ESV)

Our commission, like Peter’s commission, is to love God and those with whom we live.

Righteous Sacrifice

Meditations on the Psalms

Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the LORD. (Psalm 4:5 ESV)

Jesus speaks in the first person to those people who dishonor His name and who love vain words, lifting themselves up above God. They do not stand before God with awe, refusing to ponder their own actions and motivations. He told them to contemplate their position before God and to silence themselves and their self-centered thinking. Jesus does not ask them to do anything. He commands them, with an expectation of obedience.

He tells them to offer the sacrifices of righteousness, not just a right sacrifice. Offer and sacrifice are words so closely related they mean almost the same thing. Offer means to kill or slaughter. Sacrificemeans the thing being killed or slaughtered. Slaughter your sacrifice. Commit your sacrifice completely and wholly to God so that it can never be taken back.

We think of form and function when we say right. We want to be correct in what we do and how we act, according to our policy and procedure manuals. This is not what He means by a right sacrifice. Yes, God gave them detailed instructions about what kind of sacrifice, when and where to offer it, and how they were to honor Him with their sacrifices. God told them why they were to offer sacrifices. But He also told them the thinking of their hearts affected their sacrifice. Cain’s sacrifice was not accepted because he was angry. He tried to buy God’s favor, to control God, with a sacrifice, as those who give superstitious offering to an idol. “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it” (Genesis 4:6-7 ESV). Speaking through Isaiah, God is blunt about what He thinks of the offerings of a people who hate Him.

“What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? Bring no more vain offerings. … When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. (Isaiah 1:11-13,15-17 ESV)

When did an offering become a sacrifice? When Abel and Cain brought their offerings, they were gifts to God. Sacrifices are required. God uses both words in the Pentateuch when giving instructions on worshiping Him. Sacrifices are obligatory, while offerings are gifts. Every person offering a sacrifice does so under compunction of the law, caused by sin and circumstance, while the one giving an offering does so out of the gratitude of the thinking of the heart toward God.

There was only one righteous sacrifice slaughtered for God. All other offerings and sacrifices point to the One Sacrifice, when Jesus offered Himself as the propitiation, the covering, for the sin of all. Jesus tells those who would follow Him the cost of discipleship. “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27 ESV). Those who follow Jesus, who are citizens of the kingdom of heaven, abandon themselves to Him in complete devotion and offering. The identity of the Christian, those chosen by God, is complete. In God’s eyes, what He does the Christian does. The word appeal means to call or summon for encouragement or instruction.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2 ESV)

We know what we do is not always true to God as we live out our lives in the world. It is not what we do but what Christ has done for us.

Martha didn’t understand what Jesus could do yet still declared she believed Jesus was loved and known by God and that God would give Him whatever He asked. However, she did not believe He could bring life back to a dead body. Her brother Lazarus died. Jesus told her Lazarus would rise again. Martha’s response was “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day” (John 11:24 ESV). Jesus’ response to her is game changing.

“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26 ESV)

 Our lives are His. His life is given for us. Our identity is in Him. We slaughter ourselves as a righteous sacrifice to Him because He was slaughtered as a righteous sacrifice for us. Dying physically means nothing in the eternal scheme of things. Losing anything the world has to offer is of no consequence when we gain life in eternity.

You are the righteous sacrifice.

Peter’s Denial

Studies in First Peter

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:1 ESV)

Luke 54-60 – Parallel Passages: Matt. 26:31-35, 69-75; Mark 14:27-31, 66-72; John 13:37-38; 18:15-18, 25-27

Peter may be the leader of the group of disciples but he represented every person in his actions at Jesus’ arrest. Do his arrogant boasts of following Christ to prison and death represent all Christians? Do his rash reactions, like swinging a sword and cutting off the ear of one of the people who came to arrest Jesus, represent all Christians? Does his running away when confronted by the world represent all Christians? Peter, and the other disciples, abandoned Christ, just as He said they would. Only Mark and Matthew tell us Jesus’ disciples ran away in fear. “And they all left him and fled” (Mark 14:50 ESV; see Matthew 26:56). Jesus had already predicted that those who were with Him would scatter. During His last the Passover celebration He taught them about Himself and the coming of the Holy Spirit. He was leaving them and going back to His Father.

Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. (John 16:32-33 ESV)

Jesus also tells them that their abandoning Him was prophesied long ago. “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered’” (Mark 14:27 ESV; see Zechariah 13:7). Zechariah wrote his prophecy over 500 years earlier. Jesus does not condemn His disciples for what they will do but encourages them to not allow their fallen nature to overcome them. He tells them to take heart for He has overcome the world.

Peter, and those with him, will run away. We must be honest with ourselves, we would probably run away also, under the same circumstances. I would probably run away. One of characteristics of the fallen nature is the tug and pull away from righteousness even when the image of God within drives toward Him who is righteous. We are afraid of the world and have such little or nonexistent faith in God that when the world rears its violent head we may fight for a moment but eventually flee. No one, in and of themselves, is strong enough to stand against the force of the world directed by the venomous lies of the Deceiver. Only God is strong. We do not overcome the world. Jesus overcomes the world. We must be driven to the place where we recognize His strength in us under His control. This is what happens with Peter and the other disciples.

Once Jesus was arrested Peter and John followed at a distance. We assume John went because John records what happens. John is known to the High Priest and helps bring Peter into the courtyard where Jesus is being interrogated. Three times Peter is asked about his relationship with Jesus and three times he denies knowing Him.

Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house, and Peter was following at a distance. And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.”

And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.”

And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. (Luke 22:54-60 ESV).

Three times in an hour, Peter denied knowing Christ even though he was the leader of the disciples. Two things happened. Jesus who was enduring the derisive grilling of those who hated Him turned and looked at Peter. Jesus knew Peter was there because Jesus was aware of everything that was happening and that would happen. “And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:61-62 ESV). When Peter realized what he had done he broke down and wept. He saw the emptiness of his boasting and his actions grieved him.

Our sin and the realization of the consequences of our sin, should drive us to grief. But the life of the Christian does not stop with grief and mourning. Peter did not fade away but became the leader of the Church, the Body of Christ. Peter may have momentarily abandoned Jesus but Jesus will never abandon him, or us. Though Satan asked to sift him, and God gave Satan permission to do so, Jesus still prayed for Peter and told him what to do once the trial was over. “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32 ESV). Peter would live out his life in faith doing exactly what Christ instructed. Peter would strengthen all those who follow Christ throughout the ages.

Righteous Anger

Meditations on the Psalms

Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah.(Psalm 4:4 ESV)

Why do any fight against God? Isn’t the knowledge of God inherent to people enough to tell them they will lose? How can those created in the image of God war against the One who created them and possibly prevail?

Angry does not mean angry, as we understand the word, in every instance used in Scripture. Angry may mean rage, agitation or being perturbed. But the word also means to quake, to fear, to tremble or be excited. The Authorized Version translates the word as stand in awe. We misinterpret the Psalm when we do not understand the meaning of the words. The Psalmist is still speaking to those people who have turned His Honor into shame and who love themselves and their own thinking more than they love God. He has told them He will make holy those who are His, those identified with His Son. They may have anger at this declaration, but they should feel awestruck with the power of God to do that which they could never do for themselves.

Do not sinis not a request. No one has permission from God to sin, which is to miss the mark of His righteousness, to go the wrong way, to bring upon themselves guilt, to forfeit their righteous standing before Him. Sin is any thinking of the heart translated into action that violates the moral law of God inherent in the image of God given to everyone. Sin is violating the essential nature given to all people, bending and breaking them, making them unable to do that for which they were created. Though we now have a sin nature, we are still told to not sin.

Acknowledging the truth and consequences of sin require all ponder, which means to say, answer, think, to speak to oneself the truth presented and then to command, to promise and intend to do that which rectifies the wrong. Every person must come to the conclusion sin exists and is true and take responsibility for their own sin. No one has an excuse.  Contemplating the truth of sin and its ultimate consequences brings one to the realization of the broken relationship between their Creator and themselves, His creation. Coming to this conclusion should drive everyone to their knees. Silent means to be still, struck dumb, to make oneself quiet.

When God answered Job, he clapped his hand over his mouth to silence himself. He saw God and then saw all his empty arguments, so he restrained himself from speaking further. “Then Job answered the LORD and said: ‘Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further’” (Job 40:3-5 ESV).

Death is the undeniable evidence of the reality of sin. As Jesus stood before the tomb of Lazarus many suggest had Jesus been present the man would not have died. Martha was the first to speak. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you” (John 11:21-22 ESV). When Mary arrived, she exclaimed the same thought. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:32 ESV). Finally, some of those standing around watching said “could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?” (John 11:37 ESV). They believed Jesus could do something when a person was alive. They did not believe He could do anything after a person died. No one believed the evidence of His words and works, that He had already raised people from death (see Luke 7:11-16; see Matthew 9:18-26, see Mark 5:22-43, see Luke 8:41-56). Jesus was a mere man with certain abilities fed by their superstitious beliefs. He could heal. He could not raise from death.

Martha protested when Jesus told them to take away the stone covering the tomb. She who had just declared “but even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you” (John 11:22 ESV) now said “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days” (John 11:39 ESV). She did not believe Jesus with the thinking of her heart. Only after Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, and she and the other touched her brother and lived with him, did she begin to believe.

Jesus works, as God works, leaving behind the irrefutable evidence of His labor. In creation, we are surrounded by the evidence of God. We are filled with the evidence of God having His image. Yet, we are also assaulted by sin from the world and our own flesh. Ignoring the evidence of God and of sin is irrational and insane. Our anger toward the truth of sin needs replacing with the astonishment of intimately knowing God. Only by taking responsibility for our own sin and then seeking Him with our whole hearts will we receive His eternal blessing.

Peter’s Denial of Christ

Studies in First Peter

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:1 ESV)

Luke 22:31-34, 54-62 (see also Matthew 26:31-35, 69-75; Mark 14:27-31, 66-72; John 13:37-38; 18:15-18, 25-27

It is the night before Jesus’ trial and crucifixion. Jesus knows what will happen in a few hours, having foreseen His coming trial, execution and resurrection. For this reason He came as a man. He and His disciples are eating the Passover meal. Passover is a physical representation of a spiritual reality. God instituted the Passover as an annual celebration, so the Jews would remember when He brought their nation out of Egypt. God instructed the Jews to eat the first Passover meal before the last plague to strike the nation of Egypt and before Pharaoh before released the Jewish people. When the Angel of death passed over the land, He struck down the first born of all who had not covered the doorposts of their homes with the blood of a sacrificed lamb.

For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD. The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt. (Exodus 12:12-13 ESV)

God knew what He was going to do from creation and the fall of Adam and Eve, and systematically told His people and the world the events that would accomplish His redemption of those who are His. Passover is an annual reminder that God has redeemed those who are His by the blood of His Son. Jesus celebrated the Passover with His disciples before He became the sacrificed Passover lamb whose blood covers those redeemed by God.

During the meal Jesus predicted Peter’s denial of his relationship with Him. Jesus used Peter’s given name twice. Then He tells us something we could never know had He not divulged the facts. Satan had demanded from God that it might tempt Peter. “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat”  (Luke 22:31 ESV). Demanded means to be given over for torture or punishment. Satan is concentrating its strength on the leader of the disciples in an attempt to destroy the continuity Jesus had built into the group over the years of His ministry. Like Job, Satan wanted to tempt and try Peter to see if his faith was real or a fabrication. Like Job, God gave permission for Satan to do its work (see Job 1:6-22 and 2:1-10).

Jesus does not leave Peter to his own strengths. Faith is a conduit God uses, through which God delivers all the tools needed to live for God in a world that hates God and persecutes Christians. Jesus tells Peter that “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32 ESV). Jesus’ prayer is eternally powerful. Though Peter must endure the assaults and attacks of the enemy, through the strength provided by God, he will endure. If Peter had to rely upon his own strength, his failure was assured. Peter received God’s strength in him under God’s control. He would fall because of his sin, but would rise again to work for God because of God’s strength. Knowing this, Jesus gave Peter his marching orders. His purpose was to strengthen your brothers, all those who follow Christ and must endure the assaults of the Deceiver.

In Peter’s mind and heart there was no possibility of him rejecting Jesus. Peter made a brash statement, boasting of something he would soon regret.  This is a characteristic of very person who tries to live for Christ using their own human strength and wisdom. “Peter said to him, ‘Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death’” (Luke 22:33 ESV). Peter declared he was ready to die for Christ. He heard Jesus tell them they must pick up their crosses and follow Him. Having followed Jesus this far, he was convinced of his willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice for Jesus.

Jesus, knowing the hearts of men, allows for temporary failure to build eternal success. Jesus knows what will actually happen because He is God and knows all things. “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me” (Luke 22:34 ESV). Roosters do not just crow as day is breaking but while it is still dark in the early morning hours. Peter, adamantly convinced he would never forsake Jesus, denied he knew Jesus three times before the rooster crowed, while it was still dark.

This prediction must have devastated Peter’s sensibilities. He could easily have been angry and hurt by what Jesus told him. In his mind and heart, he would do what he said he would do. When Jesus was arrested, it was Peter who struck the servant of the High Priest with a sword. “Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) So Jesus said to Peter, ‘Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?’” (John 18:10-11 ESV). Peter was rebuked by Jesus, even after being told to bring a sword, because he used the sword. His discouragement and confusion must have been great.

But Peter had already heard Jesus’ words. He may not have remembered them until later. “But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32 ESV). God used his failings to prepare him for greater service.

Holiness

Meditations on the Psalms

But know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself; the LORD hears when I call to him. (Psalm 4:3 ESV)

Separation for God from the world is one of the major themes in the Psalms. We see God separate the wicked from the righteous in Psalm 1. Those who would separate themselves from God face His wrath and ultimately achieve their purpose in Psalm 2. In Psalm 3, Jesus, and those in Him, need not fear those who stand against them or God, for He will deliver. Here, the Psalmist declares God has set apart for Himself those who obey Him within the deepest thinking of their hearts. To set apart means to be distinct, marked out, separated, distinguished from others. God describes for us those who are His whom He has set apart. They are the godly, the faithful, holy, pious saints.

God reveals that those who exhibit and live holiness, He claims for Himself. These are the people who turn away from their sin toward God, who repent and walk toward Him in the faith He gives. They are His and cannot be taken from Him.

After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, some of those who witnessed the miracle went to the religious leaders of Judah, reporting to them what had occurred. They condemned Jesus and devised a premeditated plan to murder Him. They decided to murder Lazarus, the living witness to an irrefutable miracle. What were they going to do with Mary and Martha and all of the other people who witnessed Jesus’ miracle, who had seen Lazarus dead, then saw him walk out of a tomb after four days? They cannot kill everyone.

God uses the authorities of the world, whether they cooperate are not, to do His will and fulfil His purpose. In this case, the high priest, Caiaphas, prophesied what would happen by telling those under his authority what needed doing. In his mind and heart, the best solution to the problems Jesus raised by His presence, teaching and works, was to murder Him. Murder is against the law of God. Everyone who heard him, knew this. “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13 ESV; see Deuteronomy 5:17) is an explicit statement. Caiaphas declared Jesus had to die so the nation might continue to exist. His reasoning was that if Jesus continued to live the Romans would punish them all and take away their temple and disperse them throughout the world.

Let’s remember some of the history of the Jews. God had already destroyed the temple, dispersing the Jews throughout the world. He did this because they refused to trust Him as their God and obey His directives. In 586 BC, the Babylonians conquered the nation of Judah, the southern part of the divided nation of Israel. Around 70 BC, the Northern Kingdom was destroyed by the Assyrians, its people dispersed throughout the world. Judah was ransacked, the temple destroyed, and many of the citizens of Judah were exiled in 586 BC. Seventy years later the Babylonian nation was conquered by the Medes and Persians. It was the Medes and Persian leader, Cyrus, who sent a remnant of Jews back to Judea­ to rebuild the city of Jerusalem. The religious leader’s of Jesus’ time should have known disobeying the direct will of God was not going to save their nation. Murdering His Son only brings His wrath. Before the end of the century Jerusalem is destroyed again, the temple is razed and the Jews are exiled.

But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. (John 11:47-52 ESV)

When the Jewish religious leaders killed Jesus using the Romans as their executioners, they ultimately accomplished the will of God. They were responsible for their actions, for the thinking of their hearts. Their physical, temporal nation was destroyed. But the eternal Kingdom of God is established and the eternal King is enthroned.

 “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. (Psalm 2:6-8 ESV)

God’s kingdom is filled with those He set apart for Himself, beginning with His Son, Jesus Christ. Because the One Man is blessed, so those who take refuge in Him are blessed. “Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (Psalm 2:12 ESV). Peter describes the follower of Christ.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10 ESV)

We are set apart from the world for God.