Tag Archives: sin

Morning Prayer

O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch. (Psalm 5:3 ESV)

God wants us to listen to Him and talk to Him. Praying to God upon first awakening from sleep is evidence of a person’s devotion to Him and desire to intimately know Him.

Morning is not the only time to pray. Morning is a good time to pray. We should pray always, at all times of the day. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 6:16-18 ESV). There is something about morning and prayer that has captured the discipline of many of the greatest spiritual leaders, beginning with Jesus. “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed”(Mark 1:35 ESV; see also Luke 4:42). Throughout His ministry Jesus prayed often at all times of the day.

Sleeping in the Psalms may mean resting with eyes closed and moving into the physiological state where one dreams. But it may also mean death. Jesus raised people from the dead and was, Himself, resurrected from death. Sleep is not death but the word is often used for someone who has died. Death is an enemy for the living in this world because it symbolizes God judgment. But sleep is a time of peace and rest that shows God’s pleasure and protection. “In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8 ESV). Jesus was not afraid of His enemies during His ministry, nor of death and dying, for He controls death, it does not control Him.

Morning is used twice in this verse. Morning is the time to direct special attention to God. The ESV adds the word “sacrifice” to this verse, and sacrifice may be implied. Prepare means to direct, to arrange, order, furnish, as in to prepare a sacrifice or a meal or some other special experience. Watch means to keep close look out, to spy, observe or watch closely. The Psalmist suggests he has an anticipation of something important happening during his morning prayer. Praying in the morning prepares him for the meeting with God, insuring all is in order and ready for him to receive what God is giving. Our morning sacrifice is ourselves to His purpose and will.

Dreams and visions are times when God speaks to people about themselves and their relationship with Him. God spoke to Joseph about Mary, his future wife, in a dream (see Matthew 1:18-25) telling him to marry her even though she was pregnant with Jesus. After Jesus’ birth, God spoke to Joseph again in a dream, telling him to take his family to Egypt to escape the murderous wrath of Herod the Great (see Matthew 2:13-15). In Scripture dreams have special meanings. However, outside of Scripture, dreams are often misinterpreted, giving the dreamer an excuse to act on a superstitious belief. Nostradamus dreamed and led many people astray. Other times dreams will frighten and keep a person from acting. Sometimes God speaks to people in their dreams. Most often dreams reveal the innermost thinking of our hearts, often suppressed because of pain and discomfort. That which we long for may be revealed in dreams. Often, we dream and immediately forget our dreams upon waking.

Praying in the morning becomes a way to prepare for the day after a night of rest and dreaming deeply. Intimacy with God begins from the moment we awake. Or, a lack of intimacy is shown by removing thoughts of God from our hearts and minds from the moment we awake because of the “great” things we must face or accomplish. Praying in the morning becomes a discipline of obedience and love for God.

Jesus charges those who are His to stand ready for His return at a moment, driving home His instructions with several parables about those who lost because they were not prepared and ready for the return of their Master. He is speaking about His second coming “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:44 ESV) and “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour” (Matthew 25:13 ESV). Jesus characterizes His coming as a thief in the night. “Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!” (Revelation 16:15 ESV).

Discipline involves every thought and action. We are at war with sin, our own flesh and Satan and the world. Each of these enemies would storm our lives and enslave us, dragging us away from God. God’s Spirit in us, and the Word of God, gives us the tools we need to fight this war. It is a war fought in the heavens while the battlefield is within each person. “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” ( Genesis 6:5 ESV). Jesus does not fix the old heart, the dead person. He makes a new person with a new heart that hungers and thirsts for Him and His righteousness, driving the recreated person to intimacy with Him. We are left in this world for two reasons. First, we are witnesses to the grace and truth of God before the world. Secondly, God is preparing us for eternity with Him. Our preparation begins at the moment of salvation and continues in eternity.

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True Peace

Meditations on the Psalms

In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety. (Psalm 4:8 ESV)

People want peace. Most every person who has ever lived has wanted to live in peace. There are some, a handful of disturbed people, who thrive on conflict and war. As they inflict as much pain as possible, they are quickly stopped so the remainder of the people can have a peaceful existence. There is no peace without God. Having peace with Him guarantees eternal peace but also guarantees temporal persecution. The world cannot offer or guarantee peace, only danger and conflict and turmoil. Any longing for peace comes from the inherent image of God found in each person. Any actual peace comes only with an intimate relationship with God. All of the turbulence and instability of the world is a direct result of sin. Where there is sin, there is no peace. Sin causes turmoil with all relationships.

Both the Psalmist and Jesus demonstrated their reliance upon God by declaring their trust in Him to protect them when they sleep. Peace is the word shalom and means completeness, safety, soundness, welfare, prosperity, quiet, tranquility, contentment, friendship. To lay down and sleep are the same words used in Psalm 3 and can mean to take rest over a long time or, euphemistically, to die. “I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me” (Psalm 3:5 ESV). David was not afraid to die because of his trust in God. Jesus was not afraid to die, knowing the purpose of His ministry was to die. He anticipated being tortured to death but walked to His death with confidence and peace with God.

It is God only who gives anyone peace, allowing them to dwell,or abide, remain, to have one’s home and inhabit, in safety or security. Our peace and security is God, not just in God. One of God’s many promises to the nation of Israel, as He led them out of Egypt and into the Promised Land, was peace and security, provided His people continued to follow and obey Him.

 “For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.

See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you today, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live,loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.” (Deuteronomy 30:11-20 ESV)

As the nation of Israel entered the Promised Land they were given orders by God. They were to obey the commands, decrees and directions of God. They were to not adopt or practice anything done by the people of the land they are entering. The people of the land worshipped idols, not God, and practiced evil. God strictly warned His people to devote the inhabitants of the land they were possessing to destruction, to kill them all, otherwise they would lead His people away from God. “You shall make no covenant with them and their gods. They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against me; for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you” (Exodus 23:32-33 ESV). God commanded His people to not sin, nor to follow the world or a people who taught and practiced sin.

Peace with God, and living in peace before Him, comes from and through a righteous and obedient relationship. Though we face death, though Jesus faced a horrible death, yet those who are God’s have eternal peace with Him. Out peace is had through Jesus Christ and out identity with Him is in His life, death and resurrection. Jesus promises the Holy Spirit for those who are His. With the Holy Spirit comes guaranteed peace with God.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (John 14:27 ESV)

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 ESV)

Peace is not circumstantial but wholly dependent upon a vital relationship with God, the Son.

Relentless Joy

Meditations on the Psalms

You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.(Psalm 4:7 ESV)

Our expectations, because of the image of God in us, are to naturally do that for which we were created. God created us for relationship with Him. Sin brought rebellion, making the world a dangerous place. Our expectations of God are He must bless us, and when He doesn’t according to our arbitrary standard, we curse Him. We cease to rely upon God, not realizing all we have, our very lives, are given us by His grace and sustained by His decision.

Jesus tells us God gave Him more delight and contentment, because of Their relationship, than any person could have, even when all their perceived needs and wants are met. God put joy in His heart.

Joy means mirth, gladness, gaiety and pleasure, and can mean happiness. Spiritual joy is more than happiness. Spiritual joy is the relentless pleasure of intimately knowing God. Abound means to increase or become many, great, or long. We measure our riches with physical belongings, pleasurable and sensual activity, or manipulative control like power, grasp that which will last only a short time. If our measure does not last for eternity then we settle for failure.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21 ESV)

Mary, the sister of Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from death, demonstrated her joy in intimately knowing Jesus. John tells us she was the one who anointed Jesus. “It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill” (John 11:2 ESV). John tells us this fact before it happened in the sequence of the story because her devotion is important to Jesus, bringing Him great pleasure and joy. What she did for Jesus is given prominence in the declaration of the gospel. “Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her” (Matthew 26:13 ESV; see Mark 14:9). God is not selfish in accepting the worship of those He created for relationship with Him.

Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with an expensive perfume, pure nard, or spike nard. “Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume” (John 12:3 ESV). Spike nard perfume was expensive because the plant from which it is derived, Nardostachys jatamansi, also called Indian spike, grows only in the Himalayas. Nard also means having the power of persuasion, skillful in producing belief, trustful, relied upon. Mary used a perfume to anoint Jesus which symbolically described His character and personality. Mary showed her devotion to Jesus by cleaning His feet with the perfume and drying His feet with her hair. She would, if necessary, die for Him.

But there was one present who thought more like the world than like one abandoned to God. Judas, who would betray Jesus, who was charged as the Disciple’s treasurer, who stole money from the moneybag for himself, was displeased with Mary’s devotion.“Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” (John 12:5 ESV; see Matthew 26:9, Mark 14:5). His focus was upon what God should do for him, not what he was obligated to do for God. He who walked with Jesus, saw His miracles, heard His words and teachings, spent enough time with the Son of Man to intimately know Him, hated Him. Judas betrayed Jesus to the authorities that wanted to kill Him, for a handful of money. Perhaps his hatred grew over time as he saw missed opportunities to increase his own wealth and standing in the world. He wanted an abundance of grain and wine, measuring his riches with a temporary, transient standard, refusing to see those riches would be destroyed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.

I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. (1 Corinthians 15:50-52 ESV)

Jesus tells us to find our joy in Him, in eternity and in knowing God, which is the natural product of having the image of God. Our eternal joy cannot be found in the world or in anything of the world. Our worship of Him brings God great joy. He looks to eternity, where those who are His will no longer rebel against Him. They will have a righteous and healthy relationship with their Creator and will enjoy Him as He enjoys them. There is no sin in eternity in God’s presence.

“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress. (Isaiah 65:17-19 ESV)

Jesus looked toward His death with anxiety and anticipation. “And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44 ESV). Before His crucifixion He raised Lazarus from the dead knowing He, though He would soon die on a cross, would not stay dead. We who believe His resurrection, who find ourselves in Him for eternity, give God the greatest joy. In turn, He fills us with His Spirit who gives an abundance of joy, with peace and rest, to we who are God’s.

Unreasonable Expectations

Meditations on the Psalms

There are many who say, “Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD!” (Psalm 4:6 ESV)

We are faced with a paradox. In this Psalm, Jesus now speaks in the second person, telling us one aspect of the thinking of those who rebel against Him. People who dishonor God, who love to hear themselves talk, speaking vain words and lies, want God to listen to them and give them their desires. Built into the thinking of their hearts is the false idea God exists to serve them, not they Him. They believe they control God by offering sacrifices. In the space-time history of creation and the earth, people look to any who could offer them refuge and benefit from the constant presence of the danger they face because of sin.

Those same peoples who rage against God, the kings and leaders who conspire against Him, demand He bless them. They wonder why God has abandoned them and not given them that which is good, or pleasant and becoming, making them happy and glad, rich and secure in their welfare, given prosperity. They want Him to lift up the light of His face, to shine about them and on them, revealing the wonder of His countenance, blessing them and giving them all they desire. They are self-centered, self-absorbed, selfish individuals who care nothing for God, but still want Him to give them all they want and need and then leave them alone.

Light is a major theme throughout Scripture, beginning with Genesis. Before there was anything other than chunks of matter, God spoke and said “Let there be light,” and there was light” (Genesis 1:3 ESV). Light is the opposite of darkness, or the absence of light. Light is necessary for growth and health, for learning and understanding, for safety and security. Light exposes while darkness hides. Spiritually, God’s light exposes the darkness of sin while revealing His holiness. When many ask God to give them happiness without imposing Himself upon them, what they are asking is for God to bless them and let them live happily in their unrighteous behaviors. They want all the blessings of God without the presence of God.

When told by His disciples the religious leaders wanted to stone Him, therefore it was not a good idea to return to Jerusalem, even to heal a sick friend, Jesus responded with a metaphor of light. “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him” (John 11:9-10 ESV). There is no reason to fear anyone while living in the absolute will of God.

After raising Lazarus, Jesus told His disciples He would die, being lifted up, a righteous sacrifice for them. He had already called Himself the “light of the world” (John 9:5 ESV). Now He tells them to live and act according to the knowledge and wisdom given by God.“The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light” (John 12:35-36 ESV). They will be assaulted by darkness, by sin and sinful behavior. Yet, Jesus promises they will be transformed by light, the intimate knowledge of God, becoming light themselves.

Just before the Passover, the time of His sacrifice, Jesus declared the practical application of faith in Him. Either people believe in Him or not. Those who believe in Him walk in the light, while those who reject Him continue walking in darkness

And Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.” (John 12:44-50 ESV)

God is not going to bless anyone because of their unreasonable expectations of Him. No one can demand He do anything, for He is not controlled by any created being. His righteous light reveals the unrighteousness of rebellion. We should expect wrath. In Christ, He has given grace, mercy and salvation.

Peter’s Denial

Studies in First Peter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Righteous Anger

Meditations on the Psalms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holiness

Meditations on the Psalms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We are set apart from the world for God.