Tag Archives: repentance

Jesus Christ

Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings 
and crowned him with glory and honor. (Psalm 8:5 ESV)

From before creation God placed His Son over all things. Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Yet, there is rebellion in creation. It is against Jesus, the Son of God, that peoples and nations rage. “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?” (Psalm 2:1 ESV). This is a baffling question. Why would those created by God rebel against Him? Yet, over the nations filled with people who rebel against God are kings and rulers who think of ways they can encourage those under their authority to continue their rebellion against God. “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying, ‘Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us’” (Psalm 2:2 ESV). In the end, no created being can dictate to God who and what He is or successfully rebel against Him.

God establishes His Son on the throne over all creation. “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” (Psalm 2:6 ESV). As the King, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, exercises total authority and control over that which God created. Though nations and people rebel against Him, He will stop their rebellion and punish those who have not repented.  “Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel” (Psalm 2:8-9 ESV). God warns both kings and rulers over their precarious position before Him, telling them to serve His Son in fear and reverence. 

Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. (Psalm 2:10-12 ESV)

God will crown His Son, Jesus Christ with glory and honor. God gives Jesus the greatest honor and splendor, the highest reputation and dignity, and before Him every knee will bow and every tongue will declare Him God (see Philippians 2:9-11). This is what glory means. Honor means splendor and majesty, to have an ornament placed upon, as an ornate crown befitting a king. Jesus is King and His crown will declare His high and exalted position of creation and eternity.

Hebrew syntax does not have past, present and future tense. Hebrew tenses are finished or being done. What is viewed as in the future is that which God has already completed in eternity, even though we do not see it completed in our present. The writer of Hebrews captures this when he quotes Psalm 8.

It has been testified somewhere, “What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him? You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in subjection under his feet.” Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. (Hebrews 2:6-9 ESV).

Jesus, in His infinite compassion for those He created in His image for relationship with Him, decided from eternity to redeem those who are His from their sin and rebellion. He is a true King willing to give all that is necessary to bring back those who have marched away from Him. Jesus gives Himself.

You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. (1 Peter 1:18-21 ESV)

Jesus, as He walked through Jericho on the way to Jerusalem to die and be resurrected, ate with a tax collector and sinner, a hated man. Zacchaeus, humbled and convicted by the presence of Jesus in his home, and the compassion and benevolence of His forgiveness, declared his repentance and penance from a sincere and devoted heart.  Jesus then made a declaration of why He came. “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:9-10 ESV). Jesus came to find the lost and lead them back to the God who created them for Himself. We are His crown.

Your Heavens

“When I look at your heavens, 
the work of your fingers, 
the moon and the stars, 
which you have set in place” (Psalm 8:3 ESV)

Who owns what you see when you look up into the night sky? That is an absurd question. Yet, humans are obsessed with ownership. We want to own because ownership gives control and security. Look at a political map of the world. How many countries are there? Some count 193 while others count over 200. Some places that recognize themselves as a nation are not recognized as a true nation by many other nations. There are physical places in the world where countries fight over ownership. But, does anyone fight over ownership of the Sun or Moon or any other star or planet?

God created everything. Does this not mean everything belongs to Him? In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth and all that is in the universe and on the planet, He made Man in His image. He made Man with the ability to study creation so Man might know God, both intellectually and intimately by examining Creation.

It is arrogant to suggest and believe God does not own all that He created. Yet, sin has corrupted the thinking of everyone. God’s enemies, His foes, speak about Him in ways that reveal their complete misunderstanding of who He is. Their machinations and hatred for God do not affect Him and cannot change anything about Him. “You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, “He did not make me”; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, “He has no understanding”? (Isaiah 29:16 ESV). 

People have intelligence and reasoning ability superior to animals, birds and fish. There is no other physically created being given the ability to intimately know God and thoroughly examine and understand His creation. Man has built equipment that can examine the heavens in the vast array of galaxies, solar systems, stars and planets. Man has built equipment that examines the smallest particles of matter. Yet, the heavens contain more than any one Man could ever know. Though we have seen the smallest particles there are things even smaller. God knows everything in the vast universe down to the hidden things only He can see and know. Still, even with these vast differences, Man, all people, can know God both intellectually and intimately.

But we do see. God gave man eyes to see and ears to hear and a mind to think. When Isaiah was commissioned as a prophet God told him what to expect from the people. He would speak and teach and rebuke and call to repentance, like every other prophet sent by God, but the people would not respond.

“Go, and say to this people: ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.” (Isaiah 6:9-10 ESV)

People refuse to see and hear God. Jesus raised Lazarus from death, witnessed by many people. The evidence was a man walking around who had been in a tomb four days. Yet, though the people, especially the Jewish religious leaders could see the evidence firsthand, God closed their eyes because they refused to know the truth of who Jesus is. 

Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.” Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him. (John 12:39-41 ESV)

God owns all of creation. Those created in His image have the unique ability to intellectually and intimately know Him. Does creation rebel against God? People do. Those who can know Him do not want to know Him. God wants us to know Him, making Himself knowable in all of His creation.

Examples from the Scripture

Reposted

God does not tell us His expectations without giving examples both positive and negative. He has given examples of what it means to be poor in spirit from the earliest writings and stories. Six people in Scripture encountered God “face to face” and showed their poverty of spiritUpon recognizing they were in God’s presence they immediately realized they were sinful and unable to stand before Him because of His holiness. 

Many stood before God and questioned Him, or argued with Him, or ran away from Him. After they sinned against God Adam and Eve hid from His presence when they heard Him walking in the garden (Gen. 3:8). Abraham listened to God, heard Him speak, carried on a conversation face-to-face with the Angel of the Lord before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and argued with Him (Gen. 18::17-33). Abraham is declared righteous because of his faith in God’s promise not because he understood the truth and extent of sin. Jacob wrestled with Him (Gen. 32:24). Moses, before the burning bush, argued with God (Exod. 3:1-4:14). Joshua challenged Him (Josh. 5:13-15). Elijah ran to Him, then covered his face before complaining to Him (1 Kings 19:9-19).

Following are examples of people who suddenly became poor in spirit when face-to-face with God.

Job

Job is probably the oldest book in the Bible. God loves Job and they have an intimate relationship. However, it doesn’t appear God loves Job when He allows Satan to afflict the man and take away his belongings, his family and health. During his ordeal Job does not sin in what he says to those who try to entice him to sin. Even his wife criticizes him. 

Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. (Job 2:9-10)

During the discussions and arguments with his “friends,” Job lays out his case, asking for God’s justice over and over. He wants to stand before God and plead his case knowing God would listen. He never admits he has done wrong though he readily admits many things are wrong and sinful before God. He does not allow his eyes to wander and lust after other women. He has not lied or stolen but taken care of the needs of the poor, the orphan and widow. He has not put his trust in wealth nor is there anyone who has a charge against him. Job defends his righteousness, a righteousness given him by God. 

But Scripture tells us there are none righteous. Even though God declared Job “blameless and upright” (Job 1:1) none seek after God. All are sinful and under God’s wrath. Job doesn’t see this until he is confronted by very God. 

Then Job answered the Lord and said:  
I know that you can do all things,  
and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.  
“Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?”  
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,  
things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.   
“Hear, and I will speak; I will question you,  
and you make it known to me.”  
I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,  
but now my eye sees you;  
therefore I despise myself,  
and repent in dust and ashes. (Job 42:1-6)

Job offers a worshipful act toward God. He figuratively and poetically covers his mouth with his hand.  He hears God, listens to God describe His wonders, sees Him with his own eyes. Job knows nothing he has said carries weight before his Creator. He “despises” himself. He “repents” of his rash words. He stops talking. This act is a demonstration of total submission. One can fall on one’s face and yet continue to blubber and babble. “To yield the tongue is to yield everything.”[1] If you can’t change your thinking then at least stop talking.  Standing in God’s presence requires silence. 


[1] Mike Mason, The Gospel According to Job, p. 411.  Recommended read for every Christian.

 

Hatred for Sin

Reposting

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3)

Jesus, following John and the Prophets, began His ministry preaching repentance from sin. Repentance is recognizing the consequences of sin and turning away from sin toward God. This is the subject of the next verse. Still, everyone must either come to grips with or completely ignore sin. Repentance first demands acknowledging the reality of sin and the condition of all those bent by it away from God.

God hates sin, not because it caused a separation of those He created in His image from Him but because sin is diametrically opposed to Him. Sin is a rebellion against Him. Sin turns truth into a lie and a lie into truth. Those bent away from God cannot abide hearing or knowing truth because it forces them to admit they have a sin nature. Jesus regularly confronted the Pharisee’s over their lack of intimate knowledge of God and their ungodly beliefs. They called themselves God’s children and people but did not act like they were His.

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.” (John 8:34-38)

Anyone who calls themselves “Christian” will intimately know God’s hatred for sin and have a desire to intimately know truth. They will hate their own sin, even when knowing truth reveals their sin. Christians are told to be aware of sin, in self and in other Christians, and to confront sin in self and in other Christians. We are not given the luxury of being soft on sin, or ignoring sin, or being desensitized to sin. Yet, every Christian struggles with sin and it’s affects. Here is the essence of the dichotomy of the Christian life. We sin but are to hate sin as deeply as God hates sin. Does this mean we are to hate ourselves? 

Sin’s reality should make everyone cringe in fear. It is the confronting of the reality of sin in self which Jesus describes as poverty of spirit. While this may sound negative, and while we are not yet confronting the consequences of sin both immediate and eternal, poverty of spirit is the primary condition for entry into the kingdom of heaven.

Vocabulary of War

If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword; 
he has bent and readied his bow;
he has prepared for him his deadly weapons,
making his arrows fiery shafts. (Psalm 7:12-13 ESV)

Why would anyone want to invite the wrath of God upon themselves? Why would anyone willfully rebel against Him? This is exactly what both angels and people have done. God commands people to repent of their sin and rebellion against Him. God will establish the righteous after He tests their minds and hearts (Psalm 7:9 ESV). God commands people turn away from that which tempts and trains them to rebel, and turn toward Him. 

God demands repentance. God never asks people to repent. To repent is to turn, to come or go back, to lead away from one thing and toward another, to be restored. God makes repentance possible when He delivers over Jesus’ life as a means of righteously fulfilling the requirements of His law for those created in His image. God’s eternal compassion is on full display on the cross. “Turn,

O LORD, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love” (Psalm 6:4 ESV). His enemies turn away from Him, ashamed by what they have done. “All my enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled; they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment” (Psalm 6:10 ESV). Either they turn to God at His command, or they turn away from God at His judgment.

God will not simply turn rebellious people away from His presence. He will fight and war against them. David uses words of war to describe God’s assault on those who actively rebel against Him and His authority. He will sharpen His sword, bend and make ready His bow, using arrows that are fiery shafts. God creates and implements new instruments of death, designed to kill, not maim. Those who are steadfast in their assaults and attacks will feel God’s full wrath.

Joshua faced the pre-incarnate Christ as he surveyed Jericho before the fall of the city. Joshua encountered a man standing with a drawn sword.

When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” 

And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the LORD. Now I have come.” 

And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?” (Joshua 5:13-14 ESV)

Jesus, the Commander of the Lord’s Army, does not take sides between two warring factions of people. He stands for God against all sin. His mission, while living as a man, was to command people repent of their sin and turn toward God. Speaking about people who died by accident or by the hand of a despotic leader, Jesus tells those who are following Him, they must repent or they will also die a spiritual death. In Luke 13 He uses the same phrase twice. “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3, 5 ESV). Repentance is not an option. Repentance is commanded and obedience is expected.

The world carries superstitious opinions about God, believing the God of the Old Testament, the Hebrew Scriptures, is a God of wrath, while Jesus, the God of the New Testament, is a God of love, peace and forgiveness. Scripture is filled with God’s compassion toward His people and wrath toward His enemies. Jesus did not come to bring peace to everyone. He came to separate those who are His from those who hate Him and rebel against Him. “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34 ESV). Those who follow Jesus must pick up their cross, which is His cross, and be willing to die to this world to live for God. Those who hate Jesus will persecute those who walk with Him. Since they cannot persecute and murder God they will do what they can to those who are God’s. Even members of a family will fight against each other. “And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:38-39 ESV). Those who follow Christ must completely abandon themselves to Him. Obedience is expected and carries no merit before God. Disobedience brings God’s wrath.

War terminology is used in this Psalm because we are engaged in war. Those who hate God, His enemies, want to destroy all God has created and subvert all God’s purposes for His creation. The Deceiver does not care about winning, knowing he has already lost the war. Those people who fight against God think they can win. Their view of God is superstitious and unreasonable. God fights for Himself, not for us. Yet, we receive the benefit of His compassion and mercy, freely given though our time in this world.

Gathered to God

Let the assembly of the peoples be gathered about you; 
over it return on high.
(Psalm 7:6-7 ESV)

All people are naturally attracted to the presence of God because of His image in them. Yet, surrounded by those who hate God, driven by a corrupted body that rebels against God and tempted by the Deceiver, coming into His presence is impossible. Sin drives away people from God. His Spirit calls, motivates and empowers those who are His to obey and they flee the attacks of the world to find refuge in Him. Only in Christ will any enter His presence, for Christ has carried the burden of their sin and reconciled them to God. Their foes come against them and God arises and lifts up Himself and awakens in triumph against His enemies.

The assembly of the peoples is the congregation of God. Throughout history God has wanted His people to gather around Him. In the Garden of Eden, a place where He walked with Adam and Eve, His intent was for them to reproduce and fill the world with people, with whom He would walk. There were no wicked, rebellious, sinful people in this assembly.“Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish” (Psalm 1:5-6 ESV). God will not allow evil in His presence. Those who are His will be gathered about Him, which means to turn, to go around, to surround and encircle, to change their direction. When God calls those in rebellion, His call is to repentance and faith. Before any can repent they must recognize the truth of sin, which is a walking away from God, then realize the consequences of sin, which is separation from Him, the eternal source of life. Repentance is changing direction because of the consequences of sin. Once there is repentance, which is turning away from sin, there is faith, which is turning toward God. But such faith is nothing until there is obedience to the will of God, which is a resolute walking toward Him. True faith involves the whole person, the mind, the emotions and the will, and must have the direction of the Holy Spirit. No one returns to God without His Spirit drawing them to Himself.

In the Hebrew Scripture, when God brought His people out of Egypt, He gathered them around Him by tribe and family. Within the center of the encampment was the tent of meeting. “The people of Israel shall camp each by his own standard, with the banners of their fathers’ houses. They shall camp facing the tent of meeting on every side” (Numbers 2:2 ESV). God’s people gathered around God, their refuge, who lead them out of captivity and the enslavement of the Egyptians.

In the Gospels we read people naturally followed Jesus wherever He was, gathering around Him.

And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, those having seizures, and paralytics, and he healed them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan. (Matthew 4:23-25 ESV)

People followed Jesus because He performed miracles, healed the sick and, on occasion, fed them. They followed Him because of His teaching, healing and feeding them. They followed Him because He is God in the flesh and they are just naturally drawn to Him. But many stopped following Him when He challenged them to true repentance. Jesus made following Him hard.

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. (John 6:63-66 ESV)

God reigns over His people, the citizens of the kingdom of heaven. Those who will not, by faith, submit to His authority, will not enter His kingdom. Over His kingdom and His people, He will return on high, which means to resume His eternal, rightful place of authority. People who rebel against Him cannot intimately know Him as the God of the universe. He has no place in the thinking of their hearts. Those who are drawn into His presence, who are chosen by Him, struggle to make Him the center in their physical lives. But, at the end of time, when God finally judges sin, and the Deceiver, and the world of people in rebellion against Him, He will fling away from His presence all evil. Then, even those who rebel will recognize His true, eternal place over all. 

Mourning

I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping. (Psalm 6:6 ESV)

Emotional duress is more exhausting than physical pain, bringing depression, despondency and even hopelessness. Weary means toil and labor, exhaustion from constant activity. Moaning  means sighing, an expression of grief or distress, to groan. The Psalmist is feeling internal grief because of imminent death. 

As king Hezekiah lay dying, he turned his face to the wall and prayed God would spare his life. “Like a swallow or a crane I chirp; I moan like a dove. My eyes are weary with looking upward. O Lord, I am oppressed; be my pledge of safety!” (Isaiah 38:14 ESV). He was afraid of death and begged God through tears to allow him to live. “‘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). After God gave him more years Hezekiah, showed why he was afraid of death. He had great wealth and no concern for his family. He showed off his wealth to the Babylonians. Isaiah prophesied what would happen.

Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the LORD. And some of your own sons, who will come from you, whom you will father, shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” 

Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the LORD that you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?” (2 Kings 20:17-20 ESV)

Jesus faced death, setting His face to go to Jerusalem where He knew what would happen and the death He would endure. As He approached Jerusalem, He wept over the city and its people.“And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, ‘Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes’” (Luke 19:41-42). Wept means to mourn and lament, to bewail, to shed tears as evidence of emotional pain and grief. Jesus felt anguish over the sum total of the act of sacrifice He would offer to God, His Father, for a people who cared nothing for either God or Him. He felt grief for the people, whose eyes and ears were closed and who refused to come to Him, repenting of their sin. Jesus performed signs and miracles and many did not believe Him. In a manner of speaking, Jesus flooded his bed with tears and drench(ed) my (His)couch with my weeping as He lived with and ministered to an obstinate people.

Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.” Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him. Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God. (John 12:43 ESV; see Isaiah 53:1; Isaiah 6:10; Matthew 13:14)

Jesus showed His love for His people by dying for them. His weeping over Jerusalem was the release of emotion built over time. Jesus always knew what He was to do in Jerusalem that week and it grieved Him.

As He walked through the land, teaching people, performing miracles, and calling people to repentance, He saw they did not understand what He was doing. The religious leaders hated Him and conspired to murder Him. Many, being fed, wanted to make Him king, so He would continue feeding them. Many came to be healed. Many followed to see and be entertained by what He did. To be sure, there were many who believed Him and followed Him from devotion. But none had a complete understanding until after the Holy Spirit was given. Jesus lived among a people who could not understand because they were blinded by sin.

His grief built over time, coming to a head as He approached Jerusalem and His impending death by torture. Jesus was troubled in His innermost being. Soon after entering Jerusalem He told His disciples how troubled He was. “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” (John 12:27-28 ESV). As much grief as He felt, God was His comfort. “Then a voice came from heaven: ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again’” (John 12:28 ESV). 

God turns grief into joy.

Abiding Love

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

God turns toward those He calls, offering them His eternal mercy as they obey Him. He cannot abide sin in His presence. David’s words in this Psalm are a reflection of his words in Psalm 5, which pronounces judgment upon those who turn away from God. 

“For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you. The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers. You destroy those who speak lies; the LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man. (Psalm 5:4-6 ESV).

God does not trust those who are in rebellion against Him. In the deepest thinking of their hearts lives the desire to do whatever can be conceived to hurt or kill God. People hate God and hate truth, evidenced by their clinging to the insanity of sin. Though created in His image, with all the tools needed to fulfill the design for their lives given by God, people are corrupt and unwilling to work for Him. No one who has sinned is able to do anything to make them righteous before God. God’s intent is to show all who rebel against Him their abject spiritual poverty and do for them that which they cannot do for themselves. He offers all people salvation from His justified wrath. But, they must trust Him and turn toward Him.

Mercy is active love. God actively loves those He has created in His image. Love is God’s active goodness and kindness toward everyone. His purpose for creating people in His image is for intimacy, which is a natural element of God’s eternal character. “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 John 4:15-16 ESV).

No one controls God. Those He brings into His presence enter because they obey His command to repent and declare His Son Messiah, Savior because of what He did. God decided to place upon His Son the sin of those in the world, who rebelled against Him, because of His eternal love for them, not because of anything they could do. People can do nothing to earn salvation. Nothing. God delivers life because of His eternal love. Our response to His love is to love Him in return. 

Hezekiah’s words express his eternal response to God even while his eyes are fixed on his temporary circumstance. “The LORD will save me, and we will play my music on stringed instruments all the days of our lives, at the house of the LORD” (Isaiah 38:20 ESV). With the tools given in the image of God, people can think eternally. God wants us to recognize sin and hate it. He wants us to see our inability to do anything for ourselves that is righteous. He wants us to acknowledge all He has done for us by His grace. He loves us and wants an intimate relationship, receiving our love for Him as a natural part of our being His.

Turn means to return, come back, rotate toward. Where God turned His back on sin, He turns again and faces the one He loves. Deliver means to make strong, to withdraw or draw off, to rescue and set free. Soul is the same word used in 6:3. His soul was greatly troubled and now He is asking for God to withdraw His anger and wrath and give comfort and security. God’s steadfast love means His great mercy, His eternal purpose exercised in conjunction with His eternal goodness. To save means to give victory, be liberated and freed from the effects and sentence for sin. David, Hezekiah and Jesus all prayed God would keep them alive. Death is the ultimate consequence for sin. David and Hezekiah died and those who followed them turned away from God and were banished from the kingdom. Jesus died and was raised, and those who follow Him turn toward God as eternal citizens of His kingdom.

God turns toward the individual who rebels against Him, reaching out in compassion and love. He will not face them for eternity if they refuse to obey His commands and directives.

Obedience is expected and carries no merit before God. People continue to sin as long as they remain in the world. Sin has immediate and eternal consequences. Immediate consequences of sin affect the person and those who surround the person, who are influenced by them, even remotely. Eternal consequences are separation from Him who sustains life, which is existence without nourishment. Jesus took upon Himself the eternal consequences of sin and immediately gave to those who are His, the covering of His blood. People who sin, even those covered by the blood of Christ, suffer the immediate consequence but not the eternal effects. 

God turns toward us because we are found in Him. “Turn, O LORD, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love” (Psalm 6:4 ESV). God delivers us from death because His Son died in our stead and was raised. God loves us with steadfast love because He created us for relationship, giving His image to people. We are saved by Him and for Him. That we would continually acknowledge and praise Him and grow in our intimate knowledge of Him should be natural.

Rebellion Judged

Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you. (Psalm 5:10 ESV)

God does not tolerate rebellion against His will. From Adam and Eve to the present and into the future until time ends, people mutiny against God. Those who strive against Him, who disobey His will, are finally separated from Him. God told Adam to not eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil “for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17 ESV). God actually said, “die die.”  Eat this fruit and you will die spiritually after you die physically. Spiritual death is separation from Him who gives spiritual life, while continuing to exist. To exist eternally without spiritual nourishment is hell. Psalm 5 is God warning people of the consequences of rebelling against Him.

People do not commit just one sin. Those who are enslaved to sin can only sin. Everything they do springs from the thinking of their hearts, which is corrupted. Every thought, emotion and motivation is against God. Jesus tells those who would believe in Him the truth about sin and salvation. Everyone sins because it is their nature and are therefore under the judgment and wrath of God. In Jesus, God sets people free from the eternal consequences of sin. “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:34-36 ESV). Instead of accepting freedom from sin people chose continued bondage.

One sin brings separation from God. One act of righteousness brings God’s grace and forgiveness to all. “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men”  (Romans 5:18 ESV; see Romans 5:12-21). After there is an understanding of what God has done, and God’s grace is rejected, only one sin is enough to separate the unrepentant sinner from God.

For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. (Hebrews 6:4-6 ESV)

God gives everyone His image because He wants a relationship with everyone. It is the image of God, through the prompting of the Holy Spirit, which draws people toward God, commanding them to turn away from sin. Those who reject the prompting of the Holy Spirit disobey the command of God. They continue to mutiny and fight against God.

Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.  (Matthew 12:30-21 ESV; see also Mark 3:28-29, Luke 12:8-10, 1 John 5:15-16).

God does not ask for obedience, begging those who are His by creation to stop sinning and be holy. He commands obedience. God never ask any to obey. He expects obedience because He is God. For any to continue to rebel, after knowing what God expects and demands, is an in-His-face act of insubordination.

People are without excuse in their rebellion. Those who are enslaved by sin are given the opportunity of freedom and choose continued slavery. It is the image of God in each person that is the catalyst for change. This change is ignited by the Holy Spirit, who wants relationship, who shows all their place before God. Choosing sin over God means separation from God.

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 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. 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. (Romans 1:18-21 ESV)

The Narrow and Straight

Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me.(Psalm 5:8 ESV)

There is a spiritual pathway that leads to God’s Kingdom. It is narrow, sometimes meandering, straight in other places, steep in some, and impossible to traverse without the leading and direction of the Holy Spirit. People start their journey along this route carrying everything they deem valuable. As they walk, they lose stuff that has no eternal value. At the end of the path is a gate, small and narrow which allows only the traveller called by God to enter. They may carry nothing through that gate which belongs in the world. Their old self cannot enter, either. 

“Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:23-24 ESV; see Mark 10:24-25, Luke 18:24-25)

In the world is a highway leading away from God. It is fast and wide, and accommodating to all. As people move along this freeway they pickup stuff, adding to their burden, refusing to abandon anything they deem valuable and necessary to their life. Surrounded by many, who jostle and fight for position, they move en mass toward anything that is not God. At the end of the road is a gate, wide and inviting, going to a place where God cannot be known by any who enter. 

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”(Matthew 7:13-14 ESV)

Jesus cleared the Temple at the beginning of His ministry and then again just before His crucifixion and resurrection. He made Himself known, angering the Jewish religious leaders because of His brazen actions and outrageous claims. They were His enemies, foes and rivals, opponents and antagonists. They were against Him in everything He did. It was common knowledge among the people of Jerusalem that the religious leaders wanted to murder Jesus. “Some of the people of Jerusalem therefore said, ‘Is not this the man whom they seek to kill?’”  (John 7:25 ESV). Everything Jesus did rankled and irritated those who hated Him. Even when Jesus healed sick and maimed people, they became enraged.

Surrounded by such malevolence, Jesus sought God’s will. He prayed for God’s righteousness. This Psalm speaks to Jesus’ desire to know God under the harshest circumstance. “Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me” (Psalm 5:8 ESV). To lead, or to be led, means to be guided, to bring to a place with purposeful intent. Righteousness is the rule of law of the King and Sovereign, God’s decrees founded on God’s eternally pure character. Straight means level and smooth, to be perfectly right according to law, directed without mistake or purposeful deceit. Before me means face, presence, person, in front of, as in leading by the hand someone who cannot lead themselves. Jesus is praying that God prepare the way, clear the obstacles which would trip or hinder, and direct His words, actions and motivations, to ultimately bring Him before God, the destination of every spiritual journey.

One of the major themes of the Psalms is the confrontation of those who are righteous against those who are unrighteous. God blesses the man, Jesus Christ, and all who take refuge in Him, because He, and they, do not walk “in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers”   (Psalm 1:1 ESV). His enemies conspire against Him, teaching and training those under their authority to actively rebel against God. They surround Him. But He is not afraid, even when the intent of His enemies is His murder. “I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around” (Psalm 3:6 ESV). He challenges them in the thinking of their hearts. “O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame? How long will you love vain words and seek after lies?” (Psalm 4:2 ESV). His resurrection is the ultimate victory over their rebellion. “Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled” (Psalm 2:11-12 ESV).

Jesus does not just pray this for Himself but for all who are identified with Him. “Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (Psalm 2:12 ESV). Those who trust Him, that He will deliver what He has promised, are hidden in Him. What happens to Him happens to them. Where He goes they are. God’s house is in eternity. As Jesus walks toward God’s house, a spiritual path, those who are in Him go with Him into God’s presence. God gave Jesus the purpose and task of drawing those who love Him into His life-giving presence. We carry nothing with us but, for a short time, His cross, which is our cross.

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?  (Luke 9:23-25 ESV)