Category Archives: Theology

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Out of the mouth of babies and infants, 
you have established strength because of your foes, 
to still the enemy and the avenger. (Psalm 8:2 ESV)

Jesus began His life in the womb, was born and lived as a baby and an infant, growing through all the natural stages into adulthood. We have none of His recorded words as He grew, until He was twelve years old. The boy Jesus and His family traveled to Jerusalem during Passover and He stayed behind, speaking to the teachers in the Temple, listening and asking questions. His parents searched for Him for three days. When they found Him, Jesus’ responded with “why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49 ESV). Jesus did not suddenly become inquisitive and interested in spiritual matters at twelve. Luke tells us that as a child He impressed people. “And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him” (Luke 2:40 ESV).

In this Psalm, the word babies means a child or a boy, and the word infants means a child who suckles or nurses. It was common for children to nurse until they were walking and talking and playing in the streets. Children express themselves in the most innocent manner, speaking truth, as they view truth, without inhibition or filters. As they learn to speak, they are taught what is appropriate and not appropriate to say from their parents and those around them. Every person is trained by their immediate family and surrounding culture. Yet, God declares that He establishes, which means to ordain or appoint. Strength, is personal, social or political power and might. God puts in children the desire to know Him. God does this because of His foes, those who would bind, tie up, or shut up the truth with their lies and hostility. It is not the socially accepted who are wise and understanding in the ways of God, but children. “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will” (Matthew 11:25-26 ESV; Luke 10:21).

As Jesus entered Jerusalem during His last week, crowds followed Him, singing His praises. He went to the temple and cleansed it, driving out the merchants bought and sold, and the moneychangers, from the outer temple court. People came to Jesus so He could heal them. The children in the temple continued their refrain from His triumphant entry in Jerusalem. Everyone loved Him except the religious leaders.

“But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, ”Yes; have you never read, “‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?” (Matthew 21:25-26 ESV)

Jesus tells us that God reveals Himself to children and hides Himself from those who adopt the rebellious wisdom of the world, their own flesh and the Deceiver.  “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will” (Matthew 11:25-26 ESV; see also Luke 10:21). In eternity, God’s kingdom is consummated as His original intent in creating Man in His image, with dominion over creation. Isaiah paints an image of the kingdom of God, led by Messiah who gives righteous judgments. “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them” (Isaiah 11:6 ESV; see 11:1-10). Ultimately, it is Jesus who is eternally strong and eternally established by God to have victory over those who are His foes. 

God's Glory

You have set your glory above the heavens. (Psalm 8:1 ESV)

Without using the word “green” describe green. Without using words that are colors, describe color. We know what colors are because we can see them and because we are taught the names of certain colors. How do you describe color to someone who is blind? You cannot taste or feel or smell a color. You can taste and feel and smell objects that are a certain color. Can sounds accurately describe and define a color? Can a feeling truly describe a color? Without sight, color means whatever the imagination assigns to it. Yet, color is a real thing. God created an unimaginable number of colors.  Just because we cannot see them does not mean they are not real. Our imagination cannot conceive the breadth and depth of the colors God created.

Now, try to describe God’s glory. Our senses can perceive the glory of God only after those senses are trained and exposed to His glory. We are blind people trying to see His glory. We are deaf and mute trying to hear and describe Him with inadequate words. We, who have no true sense of smell, taste Him only in a small, almost insignificant way. If we are to know His glory, He must reveal Himself to us in a way we can understand and comprehend. 

He has revealed Himself in creation. He has given us the tools needed to know Him in the given image of God. He has expressed His glory in the Hebrew Scripture and the New Testament writings. He has shown Himself in the person of Jesus Christ. God’s glory surrounds us and fills us and is the environment that sustains our lives. Yet, we are blind and deaf and dumb, unfeeling, with no sense of taste or smell. We miss Him because we make ourselves unaware of Him. Our being cries out to intimately know Him while our bent and corrupt sin nature recoils at the thought and presence of God and His righteousness.

“For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? (Romans 7:22-24 ESV)

God wants everyone to know Him, so He makes obvious the evidence of His glory. In this Psalm, the word glory means grandeur, splendor, and beauty. We can see with our eyes a small part of the physical universe. On a clear night, in a darkened area, stars seem to fill and overflow the sky. God has set His glory above the stars. His glory surrounds all creation and is infused in creation. God’s glory is there for all to see and experience.

But all do not see and experience God’s glory. “You have set your glory above the heavens” (Psalm 8:1 ESV). The words, have set means to put, to assign or grant, to designate and appoint. It is the desire of the Son of God that all recognize the glory of God and that they assign His glory the highest place in their view and perception.

God drives home this requirement that all give Him the highest glory by sending His Son. People saw Jesus, witnessed His work and heard His words. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14 ESV). His life points people to God, directing them away from sin, the world, their own flesh and the Deceiver, toward the Giver of Life and the Creator of all creation. God reveals Himself and His glory in the historical person of His Son, Jesus Christ.

“Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? 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).

We will see and experience the glory of God. Right now, those who are His see and experience the glory of God. Ultimately, everyone created in the image of God will stand before Him in judgment. Those who take refuge in Him will find themselves in His glorious presence for eternity. Those who continue rebelling against Him find themselves separated from the eternal source of life. All will recognize Him and His glory.

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11 ESV)

God's Majesty

Meditations on the Psalms

O LORD, our Lord, 
how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8:1 ESV)

Psalm 8 begins with the name of God, YHWH, the Everlasting One. God is the only One who is and was and will forever be. Standing outside of space and time, God has neither beginning nor ending. God, ‘ĕlôhı̂ym, created all things. “In the beginning, God (‘ĕlôhı̂ym) created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1 ESV).  He who created the heavens and the earth gives Himself a name, YHWH“These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD (YHWH) God (‘ĕlôhı̂ym) made the earth and the heavens” (Genesis 2:4 ESV). God tells His people that they will not have any other god (‘ĕlôhı̂ym) other that He (YHWH). “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:2-3 ESV). 

Many Scripture passages announce that God created the heavens and the earth and all contained in the physical and spiritual realms. “My hand laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand spread out the heavens; when I call to them, they stand forth together” (Isaiah 48:13 ESV). 

Psalm 8 demonstrates the proper attitude those created in the image of God show toward their Creator. Those who are His abandon themselves in worship of Him. He is majestic, which means great and excellent, mighty and noble. God, Himself, cannot be compared to anything in creation. There is nothing in all the earth, the physical planet upon which people live, that can overshadow Him or anything He has done. He is God and there is no other. “For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!): ‘I am the LORD, and there is no other’” (Psalm 45:18 ESV). All those created in His image have the natural inclination to intimately know Him and worship Him in spirit and in truth.

God is unique because He is not created. If anything is excellent it is because He created it excellent, based upon His eternal, holy character. When God finished His work of creation He regarded and pronounced what He had accomplished “very good.” “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31 ESV). This phrase means exceedingly rich, pleasant, excellent and morally superior. God cannot create that which does not reflect His eternal character. 

Jesus corrects an incorrect assumption about the goodness of God. When the rich, young ruler asked his questions about how he might attain eternity, he greeted Jesus with the phrase “Good Teacher” (Luke 18:18 ESV). Jesus immediately corrects him. “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone” (Luke 18:19 ESV). Jesus is not saying He is not God. He is God. He is correcting the young man’s attitude. He viewed Jesus as a mere earthy, yet still wise, teacher, and revered Him as such. The rich young ruler wanted Jesus to give him something he could do to achieve his goals. Jesus penetrated the man’s unreasonable expectations to their core and gave him the eternal requirements of God. Only God is good and for you to know Him eternally you must abandon yourself completely to Him, relinquishing control of everything you think you possess, which is only keeping you from an intimate relationship with Him.

Those who know God spiritually recognize His eternal greatness and their indebtedness to His grace and mercy. God is good. He is also just and righteous. He is holy and true. Those who worship Him give Him, and only Him, praise and honor. They are His servants, not He theirs. Created for relationship, they take refuge in Him. Though surrounded by wickedness, those who are His give Him all praise. “I will give to the LORD the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High” (Psalm 7:17 ESV). They can do nothing less. He will accept nothing less. 

Introduction to Psalm 8

Meditations on the Psalms

This is the first Psalm in the book of Psalms that sings God’s glory and majesty without responding to sin and rebellion of the wicked. The Psalmist, king David, does acknowledge the truth of man’s rebellion, but in a way that does not suggest the debilitating impact upon God’s creation. 

In this Psalm the Holy Spirit speaks in the third-person about God and God’s Son. The Spirit uses the proper name of God, YHWH, the Everlasting One, recognizing God’s preeminence over creation. God is Lord, which means firm and strong, the master and king, the Authority over all authorities. While all of the Psalms recognize God’s ultimate authority, they reveal an attitude of disdain those people who rebel against God show toward their Creator. In contrast to the wickedness of the rebellious, the Psalms also emphasize the blessedness of those who take refuge in Him. All of the Psalms are written by God the Son and poetically speak about His work in both redemption and judgment.

Psalm 8 is written for the choirmaster, or the chief musician, just as Psalm 4. David wanted the choirmaster to teach this Psalm to the people, to be performed under his direction, during times of worship. The instrument used is unknown, but is called a Gittith, possibly from the city Gath, a city where David left the Ark of God after the death of Uzzah. “So David But David took it aside to the house of Obed-edom the Gittite. And the ark of the LORD remained in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite three months, and the LORD blessed Obed-edom and all his household” (2 Samuel 6:10-11 ESV). The instrument Gittith is used for three Psalms, Psalm 8, 81 and 84.

We do not know why David composed this Psalm, other than his love for and worship of God. As a shepherd, the young David would live with his sheep, not leaving them at any time during the day or night. Watching sheep and keeping them safe, gave David time to contemplate the world in which he lived. His musical and poetic talents, inspired by the Holy Spirit, often resulted in a song. David intimately knew God and expressed himself, his love for and trust in God throughout his life.

Psalm 8 shows the absolute authority of God over all creation and the absolute authority given to Jesus by God over all creation. David recognizes the place of God over creation in the first and last declaration of His majesty.

Conclusion to Being Poor in Spirit

Poverty of spirit is truthful knowledge of self, reflected and exposed by God’s revealing light. This is the recognition of sin. Those who deny even one sin, one “little” or “inconsequential” sin are not truly poor in spirit. However, none of us can be poor in spirit under our own power or determination. Therefore, poverty of spirit is itself a gift, or grace, from God. Throughout, He must do everything. 

Those who are poor in spirit are characterized by a personal admission of and ownership of that sin. They recognize the reality of sin in themselves and in the world in which they live. This recognition is intellectual, leading to the emotional hatred for sin and conversely, a love for anything which is not sin, especially the truth. While the intellectual is the first step toward God, the emotional is the second. It is difficult to separate the two. However, the intellectual admission of sin and its reality is primary. There has to be an understanding of what sin is as well as what it does. 

Being poor in spirit has nothing to do with physical, tangible wealth. Nor does being in physical poverty indicate a person is poor in spirit. Someone who is extremely wealthy may have all the evidence of being poor in spirit while someone who is in the depths of physical poverty has all the evidence of being self-righteous and rich in spirit. 

Since God originally designed man to have a relationship with Him, and since that relationship was broken because of the introduction of sin, those who are rich in spirit will say they have no need of God. Need of God for all things physical and spiritual is the defining characteristic of being poor in spirit. No one can do anything for themselves. Everyone is dependent upon God completely for their lives. His common grace holds all together. 

This attitude of not needing God, or not wanting to need God, is called pride. Anything which refocuses our vision away from the One who provides all we need, want and desire, suggesting we can do anything for ourselves, is also known as idolatry. God demands those who are poor in spirit accept the depravity of all, including themselves. He also demands everyone recognize the animosity they have toward their Creator even though sin inhibits their ability to see that animosity. I don’t want to do what God wants. I don’t want to be with Him. I don’t want to even think I need Him. Still, God calls people back to Himself. Any who come to Him, becoming poor in spirit, do so under His direction and in His strength and at His will. Even this must be admitted by the person who is poor in spirit

Even those who have been called by God and are claimed by Him struggle with sin and its reality and hold on their lives. Every Prophet of God, while proclaiming the truth of God, were surrounded by the sin of the people. Even they sinned. Those who walked with Jesus while He was on earth, those who saw Him die and those who saw Him raised from the dead, continued to struggle with sin. While being poor in spirit is certainly exemplified by the six people mentioned, how they shut themselves up, called themselves sinful, fell on their faces, this need not be true for everyone. Being poor in spirit is admitting the reality of personal sin after a long life of living for God. 

Being a citizen of the kingdom of Heaven is a position given by grace, by God to those who first and foremost are poor in spirit.

John, the Beloved

John was a disciple and apostle of Jesus.  Current popular thought portrays him as a mild-mannered, almost feminine looking young man. A recent novel fictionalized him as almost, though not quite, a homosexual. He was the disciple Jesus loved and leaned on Jesus’ breast during the last supper. He was the type of man the postmodern world wants a man to be. 

Okay, enough of this pandering nonsense. 

What was John like?  He was a fisherman, one of Peter’s buddies. Don’t think for one moment Peter would put up with the modern description of John. Peter and his brother, and John and his brother, were all “cut from the same cloth.” They were hard-working, rough around the edges, people nobody in our day or in our country would want to tangle with. Some go to gyms to get exercise. Their very existence was exercise. They could out-row, out-run, out-lift, out-work any muscle-bound gym rat in this country. 

John had a temper. He and his brother were called “sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17). One time, as Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem to be murdered, they passed through a Samaritan village. Samaritans and Jews did not like each other. “And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, ‘Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?’ But he turned and rebuked them” (Luke 9:54-55). They were as tough as anyone living in Galilee or Judah at that time. 

John followed Jesus through almost His entire ministry. He was one of the inner-three, the most privileged of disciples. He was the only one who came back and stood before the crucified Jesus, nailed to a cross, with Jesus’ mother, staring at the gut-wrenching spectacle of mangled humanity hanging before him. He was the one who Jesus appointed to care for his mother. He was there when Jesus died. In my opinion, John had a stronger backbone and stomach than any of the other disciples.

John’s Gospel is unique, set apart from the three synoptic Gospels. He was intimately familiar with the life and ministry of Jesus. He gives insight into the gospel of Christ and its impact upon the people who knew and heard Him necessary to fully understand God’s will. John knew, intellectually and intimately, Jesus. 

John was the longest living Apostle. He not only wrote the Gospel of John, but the three Epistles of John and the Revelation or Apocalypse of John, the last book in the New Testament. 

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John,who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.” (Rev. 1:1-2)

He was exiled to the Island of Patmos, probably a political prisoner of Rome, for the remainder of his life. While there, Jesus, whom he had walked with on earth, showed himself to John and told him to deliver a message to the Seven Churches. 

John saw God in his vision.  Remember Job?  He figuratively slapped his hand over his mouth to keep from spouting more self-righteous verbiage when he saw God.  Remember Isaiah?  He admitted his mouth and heart and the collective mouths and hearts of the nation were sinful when he saw a vision of God.  Remember Ezekiel?  He fell to the ground in a faint when he saw a vision of God.  All had seen a vision of God and all had reacted humbly, radically, honestly. 

Peter knew Jesus nominally, until Jesus performed a miracle, doing something only God could do. Then he fell on his face and cringed over his sinfulness.  Paul grew up steeped in the Scripture, a knowledgeable Pharisee blinded by the brilliance of Jesus and knocked to the ground on the road to Damascus. John knew Jesus during His ministry on earth, and walked with Jesus and the Church for the rest of his life. It doesn’t matter how much or what kind of knowledge you have, when you are face-to-face with Jesus you will react.  When John saw Jesus he “fell at his feet as though dead” (Rev. 1:17).

How can sin, and anyone corrupted by sin, stand before a just, righteous and holy God. They cannot. This means God has to remove sin from the person before the person can enter His presence. He will do this but not without us acknowledging the truth of sin.

Paul, the Apostle

Paul’s conversion is dramatic. Needless to say, most people do not have dramatic conversions. I don’t know anyone who was stopped in their tracks by a blinding light while on the way to capture and kill Christians. 

That Christians are persecuted for their faith is an indisputable fact.  Paul’s conversion was so dramatic he used it as a defense before the authorities who wanted to have him killed because he was a Christian and a Jew. Luke, the writer of Acts, relates “Saul’s” (who became Paul) conversion in Acts 9. Paul then tells us about his experience two more times, once in Acts 22 as he stands before an angry mob in the Temple Courts. Then in Acts 26 he stands before King Agrippa after appealing to Caesar. 

Before his conversion he was known as Saul of Tarsus, grew up in Jerusalem, joined the sect of the Pharisees and learned from Gamaliel (see Acts 22:3). Gamaliel made an amazing statement about the disciples of Christ and their preaching after Jesus was resurrected and ascended.  Because they were Christ’s disciples they were being threatened, beaten, thrown in jail and persecuted because they talked about Jesus. Peter and the others were not intimidated. They would continue to preach because God had told them to do so. Standing in court, Gamaliel said to his peers: “So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” (Acts 5:38-39).  Shortly thereafter, Stephen was murdered, with Saul standing nearby, holding the coats of those who stoned Stephen. 

Saul learned Scripture from Gamaliel but did not learn to think until confronted by Jesus. Saul learned blood-thirsty action from those willing to murder for god. Had he paid attention to the lessons of his teacher and learned how to think from him he would have seen the wisdom in letting God deal with those who are against Him. Instead, Saul tries to control the situation for God through his violent actions. 

Saul is a zealot for god (I use little “g” for a reason), letting his loyalty for the traditions of his elders control his passion for religion. Notice in Acts 9:1 Saul breathed “threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord” and traveled out of country to capture those who were threatening his religion. Saul claimed to know God and God’s absolute will. He had spent his life learning … something. Studying god as an intellectual exercise, or the manipulation of people in god’s name, as an emotional point of pride, does nothing for the person’s actual relationship with God. In reality, both methods of learning about god are a cheat. 

On the road, at noon-time, when the sun is the highest and brightest a “light from heaven flashed around him” and he fell “to the ground” (Acts 9:3). A light so bright Saul could not see for three days. He saw a light brighter than the sun at its zenith. Only God casts a light so bright. 

Then God spoke. “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4).

For the first time in his life Saul is forced to honestly listen to God. In response, he asks an honest question. “Who are you, Lord?” (Acts 9:5). He called Him “Lord.” Saul knew instinctively with whom he was speaking. The answer must have stunned the zealous Pharisee. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:5). Paul later tells the Church Christ is the head of the body. When the individual Christian is persecuted Christ is persecuted. Not only does the Christian identify with Christ, but Christ identifies with the Christian. 

Those who were with Saul saw the light, heard the voice and helped the handicapped Pharisee into the city of Damascus. We know nothing else about them. Jesus was after Saul. If He went after those other men you may be sure He got them. 

In an instant, after a life of learning about god, Saul was broken and learned about God.