Tag Archives: judgment

Facing Death

Turn, O LORD, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love. (Psalm 6:4 ESV)

Only God can both save and deliver anyone’s life from death. Those who have faced death and lived are better able to see and know the value, or lack of value, of their life compared to their stuff. For those who face certain death, yet continue to live and who have no hope for eternity, their property becomes the only reason to live. Without their belongings they have nothing. They know they cannot take anything with them when they die so they cling to life as long as possible and covet that which was never theirs. For those who have hope for eternity, who know they are known and loved by God, material possession carries little or no value. Spiritual maturity brings a realization that only that which is eternal holds eternal value. Only the Word of God (God Himself) and people created in His image have value. 

Only God can determine eternal value. He created people for relationship with Him because He wants them with Him for eternity. Those who rebel against Him will continue to exist for eternity but will exist away from His known presence.

Hezekiah lay dying. Isaiah came to the king, delivering a hard message. “Thus says the LORD: Set your house in order, for you shall die, you shall not recover” (Isaiah 38:1 ESV; see 2 Kings 20:1, 2 Chronicles 32:24). Despondent, facing imminent death and deeply afraid, Hezekiah prayed.“‘Please, O LORD, remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight.’ And Hezekiah wept bitterly” (Isaiah 38:3 ESV; see 2 Kings 20:3). Isaiah returned, giving another message to the king.“Go and say to Hezekiah, Thus says the LORD, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will add fifteen years to your life” (Isaiah 38:5 ESV; see 1 Kings 20:5). God listened to king Hezekiah. He did not avoid death but was given more time.

There are two things we should note about king Hezekiah. He did follow the LORD with his whole heart, doing what was right in the eyes of the LORD.“And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that David his father had done” (2 Kings 18:3 ESV; see 2 Chronicles 31:20). But his righteous works did not follow in those extra years given by God. The evidence is shown in the life of his son, Manasseh.  

Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Hephzibah. And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to the despicable practices of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel. (2 Kings 21:1-2 ESV; 2 Chronicles 33:9).

King Hezekiah was rich and became proud. After God healed him he did not continue working for God with his whole heart but exulted in his riches. Though he humbled himself, and God saved Judah and Jerusalem from the attack of the Assyrians, God still punished Israel for not seeking Him with the whole thinking of their hearts.

“But Hezekiah did not make return according to the benefit done to him, for his heart was proud. Therefore wrath came upon him and Judah and Jerusalem. But Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the LORD did not come upon them in the days of Hezekiah. (2 Chronicles 32:25-26 ESV).

God turned away from His judgment and delivered Hezekiah’s life. God saved him because of His love. In his later life, Hezekiah did not return to God the compassion and grace he was given. 

God did not turn away from, or stop the required judgment against sin endured by Jesus even when He asked God. Jesus did respond to God’s mercy and compassion in a way that lifted up God before all the people.

Without an eternal perspective life is self-focused and people are self-absorbed. Created in the image of God, people are given the natural and eternal ability to know Him intimately. Replacing Him with stuff is idolatry. Those who do not intimately know God are agonizingly afraid of death and the unknown. Those who do intimately know God, and are known by Him, are peacefully at rest with death. There may be fear of the process of dying but not of death itself. Death, separation from this sinful world, our sinful flesh and the constant attacks of the Deceiver, brings relief. We know this because of Jesus, who was raised from the dead, tells those who are His they will be with Him in eternity. “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20 ESV).

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Stricken

Meditations on the Psalms

For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked.(Psalm 3:7 ESV)

God develops a number of motifs in the Psalms. One of the patterns He gives in the first three Psalms is judgment of the wicked. Those who actively rebel against Him will experience the fury of His righteous decision.

Psalm 1 tells us the wicked fail in their rebellion. None of their works or words last “but are like chaff that the wind drives away” (Psalm 1:4 ESV). They will not stand before God when He sentences them but will be separated from the righteous (see Psalm 1:5) and will ultimately perish(Psalm 1:6). They will not disappear into nothingness but will continue to exist for eternity outside of God’s presence, never receiving that which sustains spiritual life.

Psalm 2 gives the evidence of the rebellion of the people and those who teach, train and lead the rebellion. When God gives Jesus, the Son (Psalm 2:7) ownership of creation, He will “break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel” (Psalm 2:9 ESV). People are to serve Jesus with fear and trembling. If they do not they will perish (Psalm 2:12). This word perishis the same word in both Psalm 1 and here. God speaks twice because He has firmly decided what will occur.

In Psalm 3 Jesus prays to His Father about His passion and the agony of being subject to the wrath and hatred of a people He created in His image for relationship with Him. He loves these people. They hate Him and want Him dead, so they murder Him. They justify their murderous intent by providing false evidence against Him while ignoring the truth of His life, words and works.

During the inquisition of Jesus before the High Priest, He faced questioning about His disciples and His teaching. Note that the position of High Priest at that time was shared by Caiaphas and his father-in-law, Annas (see John 18:13). Traditionally, there was only one High Priest. Caiaphas was the designated High Priest while Annas was the acting head of the religion, having been High Priest and most probably refusing to relinquish control to his son-in-law. Annas touted tradition and law while ignoring tradition and law. It was Annas who first questioned Jesus and responded to His answers.

Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me what I said to them; they know what I said.”

When he had said these things, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?”

Jesus answered him, “If what I said is wrong, bear witness about the wrong; but if what I said is right, why do you strike me?” (John 18:20-23 ESV)

Jesus answered truthfully and was struck on the face. Annas, and the guards he controlled, mocked Jesus. They had no intention of looking critically or objectively at the evidence. They wanted Him dead and were willing to sacrifice their integrity and their relationship with God to murder Him.

Those who struck Jesus on the cheek, mocking Him and refusing to examine the evidence, speaking against Him and training others to do the same, will themselves be struck on the cheek. To strike is to hit, beat, slay and kill. Those who condemned Jesus are His enemies, both individual and personal opponents and corporate or national adversaries. They stand resolute against Him in every way conceivable. But God does not speak of His rendered judgment only once. This is a parallel statement because He will surely make it happen. He will break the teeth of those who speak against His Son. To break means to crush, to violently destroy, maim, cripple and rupture. Their words and actions, the thinking of their hearts, will condemn them, used as evidence and testimony against them when they stand before God’s judgment.

Yes, they murdered Jesus. But He rose from the dead and is now the prosecutions expert and only witness against all who rebel against God.

Arise, O LORD!

Meditations on the Psalms

Arise, O LORD! Save me, O my God!(Psalm 3:7 ESV)

This is the cry of a person in physical and emotional distress, whose hope and help remains only in God and is nowhere found in self or the world. They are desperate, for they have reached the end of their abilities, have exhausted their resources and have nothing left. They are hopeless and helpless, on the verge of depression and complete emotional breakdown.

Arisemeans to stand, to come upon the scene, and also means to confirm, ratify and establish. Again, the writer uses God’s proper name of because of their intimate relationship. He could be saying “Stand up, God, and impose Yourself. Show Yourself mighty and able to protect.” His cry is for God to save and liberate Him from those who hate and revile Him and give Him victory over their rebellion.

Jesus prayed in a garden on the night He was betrayed. He took with Him His closest friends, eleven of the disciples. Judas was not there for he left earlier to betray Jesus and gather those who would ultimately murder Him. Jesus asked His remaining disciples to stay awake and pray with Him. They did not stay awake and pray because they were sleepy. It was the middle of the night, the time to sleep. They did not have the discipline to stay awake even a short time. Plus, they were under spiritual attack. “And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, ‘So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak’” (Matthew 26:40-41 ESV; see Mark 14:7, Luke 22:45). His mild rebuke could not keep them awake for they fell asleep again as soon as He walked away to pray.

What was Jesus praying? Jesus felt anxiety as He faced crucifixion. From eternity, before Jesus’ incarnation, He knew this historical moment would come. He knew what He had already decided to do and its outcome.

And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “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 22:41-44 ESV)

Jesus knew, in His nature as a true man, His servant nature, that He was going to be tortured to death. It is not death which causes fear but the manner in which a person dies. He felt agony,which is severe mental and emotional anguish, a struggle for victory, because He knew the cost. He sweated huge drops as He wrestled with the knowledge of emanate torture and death. Did He need more strength than He already had? Luke tells us an angel appeared from heaven to strengthen him. Jesus was truly Man the way God intended and God in flesh. He did not sin but experienced all of the emotional and moral tugs and pulls of the flesh.

Then Judas, the disciple and friend of Jesus, arrived with a band of soldiers to arrest Him.

Jesus was not afraid to walk to His death because He knew the resurrection followed. Jesus finished what He started because of His love for God and for those He created in His image.

For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father. (John 10:17-18 ESV)

Jesus cried out to God. Only He could save Him from absolute separation. Jesus carried the judgment and sentence of all so that all might be saved. His burden is heavy and beyond measure. Only He could bare such a weight.

 

 

Serve the Lord

Meditations on the Psalms

Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. (Psalm 2:11 ESV)

People were created to serve God. Adam and Eve were servants given dominion over a world God created for them. They were given the image of God, a guarantee of an intimate relationship with Him. As physical beings, their purpose was to have dominion over the Earth to achieve His purposes and decrees.

Serve means to work or labor for another. Within the essence of each person is the natural compulsion to serve God. This does not mean they were slaves. God gave Adam a single prohibition, do not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (see Genesis 2:16-17). Otherwise, the Earth was theirs to do with, to go, to dream and create, to fill and subdue as they could.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:26-28 ESV)

Fear means terror or a warning while rejoice means to exult or be glad. When referring to a person’s relationship with God, fear means reverence, piety and respect. He is God and His eternal being deserves the devotion of those He created. We are to rejoice with trembling, which is to take great pleasure in our relationship with Him with the greatest, conscious awareness of His holiness and our service of devotion.

Such is the level of repentance God demands from those who have mutinied. He demands they turn away from their sin and turn toward Him, with the respect and wisdom that comes from intimately knowing Him, acknowledging His authority, and serving Him with all strength and understanding. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment” (Matthew 22:37-38 ESV; see Deuteronomy 6:5, 10:12, 30:6; see also Mark 12:33, Luke 10:27). God, speaking through Jesus who gave the words to Moses, tells people their nature is to love God and each other. Sin has taken this truth and bent its precision out of shape, making it something other than what God clearly stated.

Jesus was a servant, who demonstrated His essential character by washing the disciple’s feet before His passion.

Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. (John 13:12-17 ESV)

Though Jesus’ purpose for coming was to die for our sins, He also left us an example. He did not come to just be an example of how to live and love God.  Jesus states that He has given us an example to follow. Peter echoes Jesus words in his first epistle. “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21 ESV).

Those who are kings and rulers in the world are God’s representatives, given authority by God. They carry a greater responsibility before God and much is required from them. For them to teach and train the people for whom they are responsible to rebel against God is to invite God’s judgment and wrath. God compassionately commands they turn form their wickedness toward His righteousness and, beginning in the thinking of their hearts, to respect and revere Him. They are designed to serve God and fulfill His purpose, not to rebel against God and find destruction.

Righteous

Meditations on the Psalms

for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. (Psalm 1:6 ESV)

Righteousness is shown by thought, motive and action. Those who are righteous will think in a righteous way. They will do righteous acts. Their motivation for righteousness will come from their love for God because of His love for them. Created in His image, righteousness is a natural, integral element of the essence of people. However, sin corrupted the vessel making it impossible for people created by God to think and act in a righteous way. It is the thinking of the heart which is known through the actions of the will which shows to whom the individual gives allegiance.

Conversely, those who are wicked are betrayed by their actions. Their motives are known by their actions, or in some instances, their inaction. Sin is not just an action. Sin is also notorious for the willful decision to not confront or restrain evil. Even the corrupted person has the uncorrupted image of God and knows when a motive, thought and action is unrighteous. Wickedness is the willful giving oneself permission to think and act in an ungodly way, justifiably condemned by God.

Jesus, just before His passion, spoke about the final judgment of God. In Matthew 24 and 25 He gives a chilling description of what will happen before and during this final judgment. God, the Son of Man, will finally separate those who are His from those who are not His. He “knows the way of the righteous” and will bring them into His presence. He knows “the way of the wicked” brings His righteous judgment as He drives them from His presence.

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. (Matthew 25:31-32 ESV)

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. (Matthew 25:41 ESV)

And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (Matthew 25:46 ESV)

God’s righteous judgment is based upon the thinking of the hearts of all people measured against His divine moral law. Read the entire Matthew 24-25 passage. You will see throughout God separating one from another, those who love Him from those who hate Him. Those who love God, doing that which is driven by the righteous thinking of their hearts, will be persecuted by those who are driven by ungodliness and sin. Wickedness will grow and try to overwhelm and destroy righteousness. But, Christ will return to gather to Himself those who are His and to banish from His presence those who war against Him by attacking the righteous.

Jesus illustrates His teaching through the parables which follow. All of the parables speaks about the deepest motivations of the thinking of the hearts of each person. The parable of the ten virgins show those who consciously pursue their relationship with Him versus those who lazily believe they have to do nothing. The parable of the talents illustrates those actively serving God through abandoned devotion to Him are blessed. Those who refuse to serve Him with what He has given lose that which was initially given and their lives. Jesus illustrates this in other places describing salt losing its saltiness. “Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Luke 14:34-35 ESV). God judges the thinking of the heart based upon the evidence of the life.

We are engulfed in a war where those who hate God actively and purposefully choose to rage against Him. Since they cannot touch God they actively and purposefully rage against those who are His. Read carefully the passage in Matthew 5:31-46 and you will see God identifying with people, just as He did trough the physical life of His Son. God’s righteous judgement is against those who refuse to act in a righteous way but instead embrace the world and its refusal to pursue righteousness in every way.

Judgment

Meditations on the Psalms

The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. (Psalm 1:4 ESV)

God is still speaking in the first person but those about whom He is speaking has changed from one blessed Man to everyone who rebel against Him. Some people, declared righteous by God, continue to exhibit rebellious characteristics. Others, steeped in rebellion, continue to hate God and do all in their power and strength to fight against Him. Those who obey God are covered by the blood of Christ, having obeyed the command to eat from the living tree of life. Those who disobey God deliberately rebel against His specific command to eat from the tree of life.

Beginning with Adam and Eve, all people fight God. Man’s rebellion grew with our first parents first children. Cain killed His brother Abel because God accepted the sacrifice of Abel.

And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The LORD said to Cain, “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 4:4-7 ESV).

God spoke to Cain. “Sin is crouching at the door.” His conversation with Cain was personal and intimate. His words were not just a warning but counsel on how to overcome and control the motivation to ungodliness which plagues everyone. Desire means to long for or crave. The word contrary is assumed in the translation. Literally, “it’s desire toward you” is how the words should read. This makes no sense to us unless we grasp the meaning of the word desire. Sin obsesses over total control, almost as if sin has a personality. Sin must have everything contrary to God. Sin’s desire is so absolute Cain would have killed God if he could have. Instead, he killed his brother, a man created in the image of God. In this passage we shown the image of God in Cain is still strong and able to control his rebellious desires.

Cain’s countenance at God’s rejection reveals the wickedness in his heart. He did not want to control sin but to release himself to the control of sin. Cain lost himself in wickedness and ungodliness. From Cain to Noah the wickedness of men grew to the place where everyone, except Noah (and then even he rebelled against God in many ways), actively hated their Creator.

The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” (Genesis 6:5-7 ESV)

God, the Creator of all, has the authority to bring His creation to a space-time end. He controls creation, sustaining creation by His will. He made creation for Himself, giving man His image so people might intimately know Him. When people consciously decide to not know Him it is His prerogative to bring their lives to an end. This does not mean they cease to exist but their physical lives cease, and with the cessation of their lives comes the end to their active rebellion.

God uses a metaphor in Psalm 1 for the lives of the wicked. Their lives and accomplishments are chaff, which is the dried husks of grain. Inside the husk is the seed, which is edible. People remove the husk from the grain in a process called winnowing. They toss the grain and husk into the air. Lighter in weight, the wind blows the husks away while the heavier grain falls back to the ground. Thus, the grain is separated from the husk so that what is left is usable. The works of then wicked have no value because of their identity with sin, and are separated for eternity from those whose works do have value because of their identity with Christ.

Speaking about Jesus, John the Baptizer uses almost the same metaphor. “His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” (Matthew 3:12 ESV)

Blessing to Cursing

Studies in Genesis 3

And to Adam he said, … “cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:17-19 ESV)

God blesses and God curses. When God created Man in His image He blessed them. To bless means to kneel before and give a gift, as a father would kneel before his child and give them something precious. Here, God creates Man in His image, for relationship with Him, and gives them control over the creatures of the earth, gives them fruitfulness to fill the earth, and gives them the work of bringing the earth under their control.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:28 ESV)

When Adam rebelled against God, ignoring His specific instruction, God reversed His blessing. He turned what He had blessed into a curse. God’s blessing and God’s curses carry the eternal power of God to carry out and fulfill His decision. But, God did not take away what He had given. He still wants Man to be fruitful and fill the earth and subdue it. Man’s rebellion corrupted and compromised the ability to do that for which Man was designed. God cursed the ground not Adam.

God tells Adam his work, beginning with taking care of the garden which was his home, has gone from joy to pain, from fulfilling to tedious. The word “pain” is the same word God uses to describe the pain of childbirth for his wife and all women who follow.

To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16 ESV)

There is no comparison between the pain and sorrow of having children and that of working. For the woman, the pain is intense but short in duration. For the man, the pain is continuous and lengthy. For the woman, the sorrow of raising children is daily, until they are mature and able to have and raise their own. For the man, the sorrow of growing food attacked by weeds and thorns is a constant struggle, “by the sweat of your face you shall eat bread.”

Life is now hard and unforgiving. Because of their rebellion, what was meant to be cared for with confidence and success now becomes tedious and frustrating. The ground will no longer yield to Adam’s direction and dominion, becoming resistant and rebellious to his direction.

The curse levied against Adam is the exact opposite of the blessing. The sentence takes away the ability to perform and function as he was originally created while leaving the image of God to draw him back to his Creator. God still desires relationship making the pain of work a tool used to draw Man to Himself.