November, 2006

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Psalm 24

Sunday, November 12th, 2006

Peterson’s translation reads, “Who can climb Mount God? Who can scale the holy north-face?”  The response is those with clean hands and pure hearts.  God will help them make it.

I fear that sometimes we Evangelicals in our passion to see people “accept Jesus” have cheapened grace by putting the person at the center of the process.  God is holy, awesome, above and beyond us. He loves us and wishes to save us, but we must come to him repentant and ready to do his will. I fear that we have been guilty of separating the roles of savior and lord.  That is, we offer a savior without telling folk that there are “strings attached”.  Jesus demands to be our Lord.

The Psalmist draws a picture here of God as a mountain, a great and dangerous one which we need to climb.  God wills for those who come to him be persons whose hands are not stained with blood and filth and whose hearts are righteous and pure.

Unfortunately, the response of some to this statement has been to try to clean themselves up on there own and thereby “earn their salvation”.  This too cheapens grace. The reality is that God not only demands obedience and purity and cleanliness of us, but he also provides these for those who put their trust in Jesus.  Jesus made the sacrifice.  Jesus is the “only” way.  Jesus is the one whom we follow, our guide up the mountain of God.

The points are:
(l)grace is costly;
(2)God is in charge;
(3)He places high demands, one that we really cannot achieve;
(4)He provides the way to meet these demands;
(5)repentance and grateful acceptance is the way.

Psalm 23

Saturday, November 4th, 2006

Recently one of the great preachers of our time, Robert Smith, Jr, professor of Christian preaching at Beeson Divinity School came to our area and preached to us from the 23rd Psalms.  He made what was a most familiar passage live again for us.  Among his points were the following:

*We are sheep. We are like sheep.  We need a shepherd.  We need  a shepherd who is also our Lord.
*We need to be nourished by lush pastures and still waters. God provides for our needs.
*We need restored because we will need to go through valleys, valleys with dangers and with deep shadows. Shadows indicate that the sun is shining somewhere.  We will see it again.
*The rod and the staff will protect us from our enemies and retrieve us from our missteps.
*The narrow path of righteousness is what we need to follow. And our shepherd will keep us in it.
*One day we will be housed in the heavenly barn and be well filled.

Dr. Smith made much of the fact that as we go through the hard times our relationship with God will change from the more formal to the more familiar–from he to you.  In danger God becomes more real and significant to us.

Psalm 22

Saturday, November 4th, 2006

Jesus quoted a portion of this psalm as he hung dying on the cross. It certainly captures the essence of the great suffering he endured.

The response to the suffering of the cross, “My God, My God, why has thou forsaken me.” was hard for me as a literalistic young minister to harmonize. That is to say, that I looked at anything that Jesus said as literal and as absolute truth.  Surely, God had not actually forsaken his son.  Years later when I learned that Jesus was quoting from David’s song, I was greatly relieved.

Surely, Jesus was communicating to those around the cross in a way that they could understand his anguish. David continued in his song that his ancestors had trusted in God and their trust had been correct, so by implication Jesus was saying that he fully anticipated that the Father would bring him through to victory.

As it turned out it was not the victory of an old-time western movie, or of the type expected by those around the cross.  It was a far greater one–resurrection, ascension, advocacy, return to rule.

My primary point in this post is that one must be careful not to allow his or her hermeneutic ideas stand in judgment of the Scriptures.  Truth is there, often many layers of truth, but not necessarily truth that complies with what we bring to the verses.