Who Can Dwell With God? (Psalm 15)

PSALM 15

1 A Psalm of David. LORD, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? 2 He who walks uprightly, And works righteousness, And speaks the truth in his heart; 3 He [who] does not backbite with his tongue, Nor does evil to his neighbor, Nor does he take up a reproach against his friend; 4 In whose eyes a vile person is despised, But he honors those who fear the LORD; He [who] swears to his own hurt and does not change; 5 He [who] does not put out his money at usury, Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these [things] shall never be moved.

PSALM 15:1-5, NKJV

WHO CAN DWELL WITH GOD?

I kicked a man out of my house one time. I told him, he had to go. He had gotten too comfortable with my family, it was late, he hurled a backhanded insult and I had had enough. Admittedly he was like a puppy breaking in his baby teeth, he didn’t know that his comments packed such a bite. He was intending it as playful, but it hurt and I let him know by kicking him out. It wasn’t acceptable to “play” that way in “my” house. When it comes to considering the house of the Lord, since we are all sinners, are there character issues at stake for who is welcome in the house of the Lord? Would he turn anyone away? Lots to ponder as we jump into this passage this morning.

This song address the question of what kind of worshippers are welcomed in the house of the LORD. It was sung by travelers with anticipation and education in mind. The children as well as the adults would have been involved in singing and meditating on God’s word all along the way. Their hearts were being prepared for worship. I think one of the things we miss by traveling the way we do to church these days is that we have little time to prepare our hearts for worship.  

The question that is asked in this Psalm is very real, but in a poetic sense is something like this, “Who can go to God’s house and be invited to stay as a guest? or, Who does God want to come over? or, Who gets to stay at God’s house?” 

Growing up my in-laws used to have all sorts of people over at the house. If you were going to come over and stay, you had to abide by a few simple house rules. They weren’t anything crazy, but if you were going to be there you were going to abide by a few ground rules. You had to wear a shirt to dinner, wait until after the blessing to eat, etc. In a much more serious way, this Psalm asks the question, “what kind of characteristics must I have if I am going to dwell in the house of God?” 

It is important to notice that these are not the means by which we are saved, but rather what it means to be saved (Sam Storms). It’s not what we do to get through the door, but what kind of company we are once we are saved. We are not saved by our good works, but we are saved to good works. The question isn’t so much, “who makes it into heaven?” as much as it is, “what kind of people are in heaven?” The answer flows in verses 2-5. We must be people of genuine integrity. This is the work the Lord must be doing in our lives. This must be the work we are willing for the Lord to do in our lives.

PRAYER

Father, thank you for the invitation to salvation by grace through faith in you. Thank you that we are not saved by our works, but thank you that You do work in us to be more and more conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. I pray that I would fit the description laid out in this Psalm today. I need to be a man of integrity, reflecting your goodness to those around me. I want to feel comfortable in your house because I have been more and more conformed to the image of Jesus. Thank you again for your overwhelming grace and goodness. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

I’m reading and blogging the Psalms Through The Summer. I’d love for you to join me. You can find out a little more here.

A New Song From Old Pieces (Psalm 14)

PSALM 14

1 To the Chief Musician. [A Psalm] of David. The fool has said in his heart, “[There is] no God.” They are corrupt, They have done abominable works, There is none who does good. 2 The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there are any who understand, who seek God. 3 They have all turned aside, They have together become corrupt; [There is] none who does good, No, not one. 4 Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge, Who eat up my people [as] they eat bread, And do not call on the LORD? 5 There they are in great fear, For God [is] with the generation of the righteous. 6 You shame the counsel of the poor, But the LORD [is] his refuge. 7 Oh, that the salvation of Israel [would come] out of Zion! When the LORD brings back the captivity of His people, Let Jacob rejoice [and] Israel be glad.

PSALM 14:1-7, NKJV

A NEW SONG FROM OLD PIECES

One of the churches I used to serve had a woman who would make a “breakfast cake” every week and set it out in the foyer with doughnuts. Every week the cake was the same shape and size, it had the same general texture, but it was almost always a different cake than the week before. Sometimes it had a banana-nut taste, other weeks it was pumpkin, still other weeks I’m pretty sure I tasted bits of apple or pear, then there were weeks that it definitely had chocolate chips. Then someone told me the secret, the cakes she made were, “whatever is on hand cakes”. She used the same base of flour, eggs, oil, or whatever and then would see what she had “on hand” to make the rest of the cake. If it was baking with apples earlier in the week, we got an apple cake. If she had done a banana nut bread earlier, we had a banana-nut cake, etc., etc. Sometimes the cakes had peculiar combinations that somehow seemed to work really well (my favorite, banana-nut-chocolate chip!).

That’s kind of what we have with this Psalm here. It’s got the basic set up of a good Psalm. All the structure, theological depth, etc. is there, but it seems like many of the ingredients were borrowed. Not only that, but some of this Psalm is quoted later in the New Testament.

It reminds me of the first time I had a real conversation with a friend about Jesus. I had never lead someone to faith in Christ before. I didn’t know that there are different “approaches” to sharing my faith, we simply had a conversation and I presented the gospel in a way that I understood it and it made sense to me. It wasn’t a cookie cutter approach. We didn’t walk down the Romans Road, or go over the four spiritual laws (different approaches to sharing the gospel). I just simply quoted the verses I knew about the things we were talking about. It was encouraging to me because I was seeing how to apply scripture to a given situation and it was helpful to my friend.

David writes a new song with familiar words that in several generations will become an old song with familiar words. God uses the lyrics of this song throughout the scripture because they carry key truths about who he is and who we are. They are relevant for worship in every generation because they speak to the greatness of God and our desperate need of Him.

I can’t help but think of all the old songs, made new in my generation. I love it when a musician plays an old tune or sings an old lyric for modern ears. I can’t help but think of what Chris Tomlin has done with Amazing Grace, My Chains Are Gone.

PRAYER

Father, Thank you for this old song made new. We all truly stand in desperate need of you. Let us not brag on our positions in life as though we have achieved something great. Let us walk in humbleness and holiness because of your great work in our life. It is you the preserved the Nation of Israel in the Old Testament and it is you who preserve those who trust in you even now. We are saved by grace, through faith, not of our selves. So let us sing with confidence today of your great grace and goodness. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

I’m reading and blogging the Psalms Through The Summer. I’d love for you to join me. You can find out a little more here.

Feeling Helpless But Not Hopeless (Psalm 13)

PSALM 13

1 To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David. How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? 2 How long shall I take counsel in my soul, [Having] sorrow in my heart daily? How long will my enemy be exalted over me? 3 Consider [and] hear me, O LORD my God; Enlighten my eyes, Lest I sleep the [sleep of] death; 4 Lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed against him”; [Lest] those who trouble me rejoice when I am moved. 5 But I have trusted in Your mercy; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. 6 I will sing to the LORD, Because He has dealt bountifully with me.

PSALM 13:1-6, NKJV

FEELING HELPLESS BUT NOT HOPELESS

Have you ever had a terrible no good, dirty, rotten day? Ever had a week of those? Every had a month? Dare I say a year like that?

It can be hard to see people. They want you to smile and say everything is fine, but the truth is it doesn’t feel fine. Things are broken and you FEEL it. Sometimes the temptation can come to push down those feelings, run from them, and try to hide them (Usually by hiding from people). You feel as though it is not an appropriate attitude to wear at church. 

What a relief it is to see this Psalm. We must keep in mind that this is a song that was meant to be sung in worship. This Psalm made it to the Hebrew Hymnal because even in our depression there is a way to worship God. We need this and the conversations that it might provoke. We need to know how to approach God when it feels like He is absent!

David cries out, “How long” four times in the beginning of this song. He isn’t a kid in the back seat impatiently trying to wait for the trip to be over. He is feeling the absence of God. He wants/ needs God to move in his life. He needs to hear from Heaven. He feels like he is losing…. yet for all this feeling, he knows that God is not absent and so he prays further than his eyes can see and his heart can feel. He simply asks God to hear his prayer and enlighten his eyes. And he comes to settle on God’s mercy and his own testimony of how God has dealt with him in the past.

Sometimes that’s the best medicine for a troubled heart is to bring our brokenness to God in prayer and to understand that who God is through His word, and be reminded of his faithfulness both then and now. Sometimes it’s too easy to forget all that God has done for us and the blessings we have in Christ. It is good to practice remembering the answered prayers.

PRAYER

Father, Thank you that you are not just God in the mountains, but you are also God in the valleys. I’ve been through some harsh times of depression. I am grateful that even in the midst of my fears and worries that you are good and you are God. Thank you that even when you feel absent that I can call out to you with a confidence that you hear the prayers of your saints. Let me never tire of recounting the moments in my life where I saw you most clearly at work. I need this and others need it as well. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

I’m reading and blogging the Psalms Through The Summer. I’d love for you to join me. You can find out a little more here.

God’s Word is Consistently True (Psalm 12)

PSALM 12

1 To the Chief Musician. On an eight-stringed harp. A Psalm of David. Help, LORD, for the godly man ceases! For the faithful disappear from among the sons of men. 2 They speak idly everyone with his neighbor; [With] flattering lips [and] a double heart they speak. 3 May the LORD cut off all flattering lips, [And] the tongue that speaks proud things, 4 Who have said, “With our tongue we will prevail; Our lips [are] our own; Who [is] lord over us?” 5 “For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, Now I will arise,” says the LORD; “I will set [him] in the safety for which he yearns.” 6 The words of the LORD [are] pure words, [Like] silver tried in a furnace of earth, Purified seven times. 7 You shall keep them, O LORD, You shall preserve them from this generation forever. 8 The wicked prowl on every side, When vileness is exalted among the sons of men.

PSALM 12:1-8

GOD’S WORD IS CONSISTENTLY TRUE

We live in a world where it seems like it is becoming more difficult just to find someone who will tell you the truth. Gone are the days of decent, good and unbiased reporting. We have news stations that report down political lines and share mostly commentary. If you want conersvative news go to FOX News and read the Wall Street Journal. If you want liberal news go to MSNBC or CNN and read the Washington Post or the New York Times. The same event will take on two different meanings as everyone dissects it and talks about it from their angle. Everyone puts their spin on it. We quickly pick our sides and line up. 

Sometimes I think finding truth can be like going to a maze of mirrors at the carnival!  Some make you look tall, some make you look short, some make you look fat, some make you look skinny, some put your gut up in your chest, some make your head fat and lots more in between.  Somewhere in the middle of it all there is a real mirror, but you don’t know which one is telling the truth. We live in a culture that believes it can cut and resize the truth to its own liking. 

In the midst of such corruption we can wonder,  how do we get right side up again? What can we trust? Do we just buy any old lie or do we become so jaded and bitter that we refuse to trust anything that anyone says. What do we do? 

Have you ever been disoriented? David is looking for where to go when His world does not make sense.  I am told that there are conditions that a pilot can fly in that become very disorienting and they can’t trust your feelings. In those instances they have to trust their instruments. No matter what their gut tells them, the instruments are what will get them home safely.  

David looks to God. The pure promises of God’s Word are what will guide him home. He can’t put his trust in what others around him might say. This is the way out of this mess! God sees through it all! Through all the lies, the misinformation and the propaganda. God will preserve his people!

The other day our cat was watching TV. Our youngest daughter was watching Frozen and every once and a while you could see that cat jut out his paw as if he were trying to catch a snowflake on the television. For all his effort, he didn’t have any luck catching anything. There was a lot more between the cat and the snowflake than he could comprehend. 

David reminds us that though we live in a world filled with wicked falsehoods and it may seem that it is getting worse and worse. That there is a lot more between the lies that swirl around and the believer than we could even imagine. So while the wicked plot and prowl, God’s eternal purposes will be fulfilled. His word stands forever and he will preserve his people from falsehood.  

So What is Psalm 12 saying to us? 

  • Lets not look to our culture for truth.
  • Let’s not look to studies, statistics, science, (those things are useful tools, but not indicators of truth. 
  • Let’s not look to politics.
  • Let’s not look to our neighbors. 
  • Rather, Let us look to the Pure Word of God.

PRAYER

Father, I confess like David, I need help! It seems a lot harder these days to know who is telling the truth and integrity has gone out of style. I ask for your wisdom and discernment in my life. Help me to see the truth in every area of my life. I cling to your word and ask that I would walk with integrity because I know it and I know you through it. I pray that you would preserve me from the wickedness of my generation. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

I’m reading and blogging the Psalms Through The Summer. I’d love for you to join me. You can find out a little more here.

Don’t Forget To Trust In The Lord On Hard Days Too (Psalm 11)

PSALM 11

1 To the Chief Musician. [A Psalm] of David. In the LORD I put my trust; How can you say to my soul, “Flee [as] a bird to your mountain”? 2 For look! The wicked bend [their] bow, They make ready their arrow on the string, That they may shoot secretly at the upright in heart. 3 If the foundations are destroyed, What can the righteous do? 4 The LORD [is] in His holy temple, The LORD’s throne [is] in heaven; His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men. 5 The LORD tests the righteous, But the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates. 6 Upon the wicked He will rain coals; Fire and brimstone and a burning wind [Shall be] the portion of their cup. 7 For the LORD [is] righteous, He loves righteousness; His countenance beholds the upright.

PSALM 11:1-7

DON’T FORGET TO TRUST IN THE LORD ON HARD DAYS TOO

David begins this Psalm by stating his explicit trust in God. You don’t have to question him. You don’t have to wonder. It is not ambiguous. He declares it from the get go. He puts his trust in the LORD!

What do we trust in? Where is our hope? Who do we cling to and what do we depend on? It’s one thing to say we trust God. That looks good on paper. It sounds good coming from our mouths. It’s different to actually trust Him. What about when life meets conflict. When there is turmoil, where do we turn? 

Do we trust God on just the good days? Days when everything is going our way? Days when there is more paycheck than problems? Days where we are comfortable? Days when our teams win? Days when the sun shines? Days when the biggest buck comes out to our stand? Days when others honor us? Days when we are well known and respected? Do we trust God then? 

What about the bad days? What about when hurt arises? What about when we feel pain and we don’t know why? What about when we miss our loved ones who have gone on? What about when we have been injured by the senseless action of others? What about when we have been hurt and betrayed? Do we just trust God then? 

David puts no qualifier on his statement! He simply states that it is the LORD who has all of his trust! And why shouldn’t God have all of his trust? It was God who sent Samuel to anoint a little shepherd boy. It was God who looked past the outward appearance and saw the heart. It was God who defeated Goliath through the hands of David in the Valley of Elah. God has lead David through trouble in the past, He will lead him now! 

So David is troubled by the good counsel, but not Godly counsel that his friends offer. They beg him to flee for his life. Live to fight another Day. But David won’t have any of it. If we trust God in the green and grassy meadows, we must also trust him in the valley of the shadow of death and especially in the presence of our enemies.

We are reminded that it is Jesus who promises us that He will never leave us nor forsake us. It is the Good Shepherd whose presence comforts us when we go through the valley of the Shadow of Death. He is the one we trust. He has never truly abandoned us. He has always been with us. Even when we couldn’t see.

PRAYER

Father, I am reminded of your goodness to me. I don’t have the same story as David, but I do know that there were several moments where I put my trust in you and I saw your greatness displayed in my own life. I confess there is a time and a place to make sure that I’m not being reckless, but there is a time to step into adversity with boldness knowing that you will hold me up. Help me to know the difference. I pray that I would never miss a Goliath moment in my life because I thought too much or me and too little of you. I put my trust in you LORD! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

I’m reading and blogging the Psalms Through The Summer. I’d love for you to join me. You can find out a little more here.

Start Looking For God’s Will Early In The Morning (Psalm 5)

PSALM 5

1 To the Chief Musician. With flutes. A Psalm of David. Give ear to my words, O LORD, Consider my meditation. 2 Give heed to the voice of my cry, My King and my God, For to You I will pray. 3 My voice You shall hear in the morning, O LORD; In the morning I will direct [it] to You, And I will look up. 4 For You [are] not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness, Nor shall evil dwell with You. 5 The boastful shall not stand in Your sight; You hate all workers of iniquity. 6 You shall destroy those who speak falsehood; The LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man. 7 But as for me, I will come into Your house in the multitude of Your mercy; In fear of You I will worship toward Your holy temple. 8 Lead me, O LORD, in Your righteousness because of my enemies; Make Your way straight before my face. 9 For [there is] no faithfulness in their mouth; Their inward part [is] destruction; Their throat [is] an open tomb; They flatter with their tongue. 10 Pronounce them guilty, O God! Let them fall by their own counsels; Cast them out in the multitude of their transgressions, For they have rebelled against You. 11 But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You; Let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them; Let those also who love Your name Be joyful in You. 12 For You, O LORD, will bless the righteous; With favor You will surround him as [with] a shield.

PSALM 5:1-12

START LOOKING FOR GOD’S WILL EARLY IN THE MORNING

In one of my jobs I was tasked with assembling a large desk for our office. I unloaded the boxes got all the pieces sorted and made sure we had the tools we needed to start. Then I laid the plans aside and started to put the desk together. It wasn’t until about midway through that I realized we were in trouble. I thought we were going by the plans, but I was just eye balling the pieces and putting them together, I wasn’t checking for the important letters and numbers listed on each piece. Somehow I had placed piece J where G should be and to further complicate it I had H on backwards… We had to undo most of our work to go back and set it up right.

I reckon some of us try and go through life like that. We get all the pieces together and try to figure it out. We know enough about God’s word to assume we’re ok. But to say that we were looking for God’s will for our lives in any given situation might be a stretch.

David says here that he isn’t taking anything for granted. He is seeking the Lord in the morning. He is seeking after God’s will. He doesn’t want to make a mess of things and then go back and have to figure out how to straighten it out. He wants to follow the Lord’s will from the get go. There is too much at stake to not seek after God.

“I’ve got so much work to do today that I must spend at least three hours in prayer.”

Attributed to Martin Luther

What a great sentiment and it rings truer than we’d like to admit sometimes. Our days start off better if we are grounded in God’s word and Prayer. I learned the hard way that the instructions are there for a reason and there is an order to things. We should look to the instructions first and then construct the desk. Yet so often we attempt to live our life eyeballing the pieces thinking we don’t have time to pray and seek the Lord’s will and guidance. The truth is that when we are busiest we need to seek the Lord the most.

PRAYER

Father, thank you for a full schedule. It is a blessing to have so much to do. I bring my schedule to you today and ask you Lord for your hand of guidance on my life. You know what is most important here. You know the details of this day before it has even happened. So I ask that you would guide my steps. Keep me from temptation, use me for your kingdom and your glory. In Jesus name, Amen.

I’m reading and blogging the Psalms Through The Summer. I’d love for you to join me. You can find out a little more here.

Help for Troubled People (Psalm 3)

PSALM 3

[Psalm 3:1-8 NKJV] 1 A Psalm of David when he fled from Absalom his son. LORD, how they have increased who trouble me! Many [are] they who rise up against me. 2 Many [are] they who say of me, “[There is] no help for him in God.” Selah 3 But You, O LORD, [are] a shield for me, My glory and the One who lifts up my head. 4 I cried to the LORD with my voice, And He heard me from His holy hill. Selah 5 I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the LORD sustained me. 6 I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people Who have set [themselves] against me all around. 7 Arise, O LORD; Save me, O my God! For You have struck all my enemies on the cheekbone; You have broken the teeth of the ungodly. 8 Salvation [belongs] to the LORD. Your blessing [is] upon Your people. Selah

HELP FOR TROUBLED PEOPLE (Psalm 3)

The other day my daughter had a bad day at the ball park. She fell on her scooter and scraped her knee. Then on her way to get help, someone borrowed her scooter and she couldn’t find it. So finally she fell down and just started to cry. I found her, picked her up, and helped her figure out if she was just scared, hurt, or anxious (seems like she is all 3 when blood is involved). I bandaged her up, walked her through her emotions, and found the kid who borrowed her scooter and thanked them for watching it for her.

There is no telling what would have happened if I hadn’t intervened. Perhaps she’d still be crying. She’d probably be bitter. There is no telling if she’d have ever found her beloved scooter, etc. But because I helped her she didn’t face any of those things alone, she had an advocate that met her where her needs were and walked with her through the trama.

We all get hurt sometimes. We all have bad days. There are moments where it seems like the world is out to get us. On those days, especially, we need an advocate. We need a safe place to go. We need shelter from this world, someone who understands our pain and help us see things the way they are. We need Him every day, but especially on bad days.

David was having a bad day. He was crying in the dark because his son Absalom was after him. He had fled Jerusalem. He had been mocked. Many of his trusted royal friends had betrayed him. And on top of that his son had made himself his enemy. There was no real way to get through this without tears. So he called out to God, the God who saves, and he put his hope in God.

Prayer

Father, thank you for psalms like this where we are freed up to just pour our heart out to you. Sometimes the world doesn’t make sense and this side of heaven we are sure to face sad days where we are uncertain about what to do. Sometimes it feels like we are stuck in a no-win situation. I am grateful that you meet us in the midst of our adversity, dress our wounds, and heal our hearts. Thank you that you aren’t just a God of the mountains, but that you also lead your people through the valleys. Strengthen us today as we draw our hope in you. In Jesus Name, Amen.

I’m reading and blogging the Psalms Through The Summer. I’d love for you to join me. You can find out a little more here

Do I Boast in the Lord or in Myself? The Second Part of Gideon’s Story (Judges 7)

This story is all about boasting, a special kind of boasting, boasting not in our own ability, but in God’s ability to save. That’s important because as long as we are boasting in our own accomplishments we will never have time to trust God to save us.

 Have you ever heard the story of the Emperor’s new clothes? It goes a little something like this: The emperor hires two new tailors to make a suit for him. He pays a nice sum of money, they take measurements, and he expects them to return with a brilliant suit. The tailors are tricky folks and they play on the emperor’s gullibility and desire to be loved by others. They tell him that they have made a one of a kind unique suit, in fact it is so special that only those who are pure of heart can see how splendid it really is.

So it comes time to try one the suit and they show up with a box of nothing. They go through the motions just like they were laying out a real suit, but there is nothing there. They ask the emperor to disrobe so he can wear the special new suit. The emperor doesn’t see a suit, but not wanting to feel stupid, pretends he does. They pretend to help him fit in the suit. They ask him if it’s too snug, or if it fits just right and then they go on praising him, telling him how fine he looks in his new suit.

Then they start to call the castle staff in starting with the butlers and maids. They describe to these kind gentle folks that only those pure of heart and fit for service in the palace can see how splendid the fabric really is. Each person who comes in is afraid to admit that if they say the emperor is naked that it will reveal that they are not pure of heart and were never meant for palace work anyway. Finally there whole palace is in an uproar about how brilliant the emperor’s suit is. No one dare says that they can’t see it and they all go on pretending in order to cover their shame.

The next thing you know someone yells out, “Let’s have a parade and show everyone how brilliant your new suit is!” and of course that’s a good idea because everyone in the palace is pretending to be able to see this imaginary suit.  The situation escalates quickly and the emperor is now marching out in front of his whole castle staff down the road through the village. People are running ahead announcing the reason for the visit from the emperor and that only those, “pure of heart, fit for a kingdom like ours can see how brilliant the suit really is.” The band assembles. The people, not wanting to betray their inability to see the suit all play along.

Then the procession rounds a corner and a little child who didn’t hear the announcement looks up and sees the king marching naked through the street with all his staff behind him, with the band playing, with all the people telling him how wonderful he looks in his new suit and says, “you’re naked!”

The charade is up! Everyone’s worst suspicions were realized. There never was a suit, it was all made up by some lazy tailors who wanted the kings money.

In a way we are like the king and all the towns folk when we boast about ourselves and what we have done. Boasting is like the emperor’s new clothes because we all stand in need, but boasting ignores that real need and shifts focus onto a lie that says, “I have enough.” People who have a problem boasting about themselves are trying to cover over a real need. To put it in perspective it’s like saying, “I know I am a sinner, but I’m really good at basketball,” or “I know that I can’t forgive that person for what they’ve done to me, but I’m really beautiful.” Or “I know that I’m going to spend eternity away from God in a place called hell, but man can I sing.” Boasting in ourselves is like the king who boasted in his new outfit. He was actually boasting in his ignorance.

The nation of Israel was overrun by Midianites. God had sent word that he would deliver them through the hand of Gideon, but He was going to do it in a way that it was obviously God who won the victory. The Israelites needed to know that even in their weakness that God was strong. They needed to boast not in themselves, in their nakedness, but in the God who covers over sin and provides for deliverance.

  1. When we are WEAK, we see God’s STRENGTH

Then Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) and all the people who were with him rose early and encamped beside the spring of Harod. And the camp of Midian was north of them, by the hill of Moreh, in the valley. The LORD said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’ Now therefore proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return home and hurry away from Mount Gilead.'” Then 22,000 of the people returned, and 10,000 remained. And the LORD said to Gideon, “The people are still too many. Take them down to the water, and I will test them for you there, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall go with you,’ shall go with you, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ shall not go.” So he brought the people down to the water. And the LORD said to Gideon, “Every one who laps the water with his tongue, as a dog laps, you shall set by himself. Likewise, every one who kneels down to drink.” And the number of those who lapped, putting their hands to their mouths, was 300 men, but all the rest of the people knelt down to drink water. And the LORD said to Gideon, “With the 300 men who lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hand, and let all the others go every man to his home.” (Judges 7:1-7 ESV)

Did you catch that? God reduced the size of Gideon’s army by over 99%! First, let’s get one thing straight the 32,000 people he gathered together weren’t enough to take on the enemy! We are told that the soldiers of Midian numbered around 135,000!

So let’s do a little battle math. Let’s assume that all things are equal and so every guy can kill one guy. You’d need 135,000 guys to fight for you, not 32,000. Let’s say that you’re guys are really awesome and they do have the home court advantage so they are good for at least 2 of the other guys. You still need about 68,000.

Put it in money terms. Let’s say you’re trying to get enough money together to buy a really nice car. Something like a Lambrogini. You find one decked out, on sale for $135,000.  You don’t have $135,000 so you raise money, you promise rides out to your friends if they invest, you pick up odd jobs, you wash dogs, you sell your parents stuff at yard sales and you work really hard and you come up with $32,000. It’s impressive right? But it’s not enough to buy the car, but given your skills in raising the money you may feel like it’s enough to enter a negotiation. Now imagine that $20,000 walks off and you are left with $12,000 to negotiate with for a $135,000 car. Now imagine that it’s down to $300… Do you know what kind of car you buy for $300? At that point you are just buying it for the parts.

How ridiculous to walk into a car negotiation for a $135,000 car with only $300 in your pocket! You wouldn’t even call the guy. It’s not enough!

That is how it looks for Israel when it comes to defeating Midian. It’s impossible! No one in their right mind is looking around at any point in this whole thing thinking, “I think we have enough guys, send some home.” In fact, if you’re just one of the guys waiting to go to war and you see everyone else walking off because of this or that, you get worried. Look at verse 2 though, it’s important for the LORD to illustrate a point to Gideon and all of Israel. He is the one who delivers.

In our society we look at weakness as a flaw. We don’t like weak characters in our movies. We love it when one guy comes in and is able to do what a whole team of folks would do in real life. We like the strong. We like the strong so much that sometimes we fake it. We put masks on to cover over our weakness. We boast in our accomplishments so you won’t see our failures and we talk about the failures of others so that you are too busy looking somewhere else to see us for who we really are. The paradox of the gospel enters at this point because no strong men can be saved; no pretender will be either. Only those who come to a point of honesty about their weakness will truly ever be made strong.

The Apostle Paul, perhaps the most preeminate Apostle from history said this:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10, ESV

Paul knew that acknowledging weakness isn’t a curse, it’s a blessing. Being weak and realizing that there is no way that you can get out of a situation puts you in a position to give all the praise and glory to God. Paul looked at his own circumstance and knows that it is God who provides for him. The LORD is his strength and you are never stronger than when you have the LORD on your side.

Here is how you worship. When you know exactly how much God has done for you because you were unable to do it yourself you celebrate. You want to see a worship service? Go hang out with people who used to be drug dealers and prostitutes but have been saved by the grace of God. You want to hear people sing God’s praise with passion, go hang out with inmates who met Jesus while in prison. Why? Because these people have a better picture of what it’s like to receive God’s forgiveness and strength over sin.

If you drop your wallet and I find it and hand it back to you, you might be grateful because there might have been $20 in there. How much more grateful would you be if I found it and it had $200, or even if it had $2000. Our gratitude grows with the money we feel like we’ve lost.

How much more grateful will we be when we know that God has forgiven our sins against him! Most of us don’t even realize just how much that is. We are uncelebratory in worship because we are used to faking strength and boasting in our own accomplishments that we don’t realize how much he has done for us! Just like we need to know and celebrate what God has done in delivering us from our sins, Israel needs to know God is their deliver in this moment. So it’s down to 300.

  • God is patient with us in our WEAKNESS

That same night the LORD said to him, “Arise, go down against the camp, for I have given it into your hand. But if you are afraid to go down, go down to the camp with Purah your servant. And you shall hear what they say, and afterward your hands shall be strengthened to go down against the camp.” Then he went down with Purah his servant to the outposts of the armed men who were in the camp. And the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the people of the East lay along the valley like locusts in abundance, and their camels were without number, as the sand that is on the seashore in abundance. When Gideon came, behold, a man was telling a dream to his comrade. And he said, “Behold, I dreamed a dream, and behold, a cake of barley bread tumbled into the camp of Midian and came to the tent and struck it so that it fell and turned it upside down, so that the tent lay flat.” And his comrade answered, “This is no other than the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel; God has given into his hand Midian and all the camp.” As soon as Gideon heard the telling of the dream and its interpretation, he worshiped. And he returned to the camp of Israel and said, “Arise, for the LORD has given the host of Midian into your hand.” (Judges 7:9-15 ESV)

So this is what we know about Gideon. He’s always asking second guessing the LORD’s plan. First when God appears to He asks for a sign and so the LORD burns up a meal that Gideon brought out. Then we didn’t talk about this but Gideon puts out a fleece and asks God that everything but the fleece would be wet in the morning, then he puts out on the next day and asks that only the fleece would be wet and everything else would be dry. Now God says, “If you are still scared to go into battle just sneak down there and listen to what they are saying.” God gives him a third sign that He will be with Gideon.

We might be prone to giving Gideon a hard time, but how many times do we play these same sorts of head games with ourselves. God might be leading you to share the gospel with a classmate and so you do things like. “OK God if you are really telling me to share with them, then they will be the first one in class today” or “They will be sitting up front by the teacher.” And all sorts of stuff like that. Just so you know, it’s not the devil telling you to share the gospel with someone and it wasn’t the devil wanting to free Israel. We just need some help and encouragement knowing that God is going to go with us.

Sometimes God does come down to our terms like he did with Gideon and the fleece. Most often he delivers on his terms, like with this dream that Gideon overhears the man talking about. Gideon is so pumped about this that he runs back and rallies the troops… all 300 of them and hatches a plan.

  • Often it isn’t a matter of supernatural ability, but natural ability used in a supernatural way. (Gideon is more like batman than superman)

And he divided the 300 men into three companies and put trumpets into the hands of all of them and empty jars, with torches inside the jars. And he said to them, “Look at me, and do likewise. When I come to the outskirts of the camp, do as I do. When I blow the trumpet, I and all who are with me, then blow the trumpets also on every side of all the camp and shout, ‘For the LORD and for Gideon.'” So Gideon and the hundred men who were with him came to the outskirts of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, when they had just set the watch. And they blew the trumpets and smashed the jars that were in their hands. Then the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the jars. They held in their left hands the torches, and in their right hands the trumpets to blow. And they cried out, “A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!” Every man stood in his place around the camp, and all the army ran. They cried out and fled. When they blew the 300 trumpets, the LORD set every man’s sword against his comrade and against all the army. And the army fled as far as Beth-shittah toward Zererah, as far as the border of Abel-meholah, by Tabbath. And the men of Israel were called out from Naphtali and from Asher and from all Manasseh, and they pursued after Midian. Gideon sent messengers throughout all the hill country of Ephraim, saying, “Come down against the Midianites and capture the waters against them, as far as Beth-barah, and also the Jordan.” So all the men of Ephraim were called out, and they captured the waters as far as Beth-barah, and also the Jordan. And they captured the two princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb. They killed Oreb at the rock of Oreb, and Zeeb they killed at the winepress of Zeeb. Then they pursued Midian, and they brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon across the Jordan. (Judges 7:16-25 ESV)

This plan is ingenious! Gideon’s men surround the camp. They wait for a shift change. This is important because here is what would have happened at a shift change. 1/3 of the army would have been asleep. 1/3 of the army would have just woken up and taken their spot to guard the perimeter of the camp. And 1/3 of the army would be walking back to their tents with their weapons having just come off guard duty. So the 1/3 of the guys who were asleep get woken up in the middle of the night. They hear the enemy trumpets. They grab their weapons and behold there are already armed men in the camp. They go straight to battle not knowing that they are fighting their own guys. The guys on guard duty turn around and see people fighting and think the enemy has already advanced through the camp and so they join the fray and a massive army destroys itself in one night.

The cool thing is that this little plan seems to be Gideon’s plan. God used Gideon in his weakness to hatch a really cool plan that would deliver the whole army into their hand without much fighting. Gideon’s God given military brilliance would have never come to light had he not been pushed into leading the nation of Israel.

They chase down the Midian leaders. The whole thing comes full circle as the leaders go into hiding and are eventually caught. Where are they caught? One is caught and beheaded at a winepress, like where Gideon was threshing wheat when the LORD appeared to him and the other was caught and beheaded at a rock, like the one the LORD showed Gideon that he would be with him by burning up a meal.

You might find yourself like a Gideon, hiding, thinking there is no way that God can use you. Can I tell you, He can and he will. You may have a calling to go across the room to share Jesus with a friend, coworker, family member, or even a stranger and you are wondering, “Will God go with me?” I can promise you, he does! It may not work out as you intend, but when you trust him he is with you. You may be scared because God has given you a vision much larger than you are and you wonder why or how it could ever be accomplished. Know this, when you are little, God is big. When you fear God, you don’t fear people.  

Day 90: Revelation 19-22 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Revelation 19-22 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

I find it interesting that the near the beginning of the bible we see a marriage (Adam and Eve in Genesis 2), Jesus begins his public ministry with a wedding (by attending the wedding in Canna in John 2), and now we find one near the end of the bible (Revelation 19). The marriage relationship points us to God’s design like no other earthly relationship that we may have.  Each wedding is a look back to the first wedding there in the garden and a look forward to the marriage supper of the Lamb. 

In these final chapters we see a great separation of mankind. On the one hand, we have those who are welcomed into the new Jerusalem, eternal life, etc. But on the other hand there will be those who never trust in the Lord and they will cast into the lake of fire. God’s judgement is always fair.

In Revelation 21:3 we see what makes heaven, heaven, God will dwell with his people once again. This was what was lost at the fall. This is what was demonstrated with the tabernacle in the wilderness and later the temple in Jerusalem. This is what is demonstrated in Christ. This is the promise received by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We will never be far from the LORD. The mountains are brought low, the valleys are raised up. The sea is clear. The light is the LORD himself.

One final thought. The gates to the city are made of pearl. Pearls are the only precious stone made by an organic creature. A little sand cause irritation in a clam and the clam covers it and covers it until it is no longer and irritation, but has become something valuable. When we cross through the pearly gates we will remember a life marred by sin, but redeemed by Jesus. Our brokenness will ultimately be covered over and fixed by the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

FATHER, Thank you for the grace of studying your word. Thank you for the opportunity to read the new testament together for the last 90 days. I ask that you would give us wisdom for the generation and moment that we live in. I pray that we would make the must use of our time for your kingdom and your glory. We look forward to the return of Christ and when all things are truly made new. Thank you for the grace of leading your people. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

 

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

Find out about New Testament 90 – Here

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Day 89: Revelation 16-18 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Revelation 16-18 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

The reading today is filled with a lot of imagery that many others have attempted to interpret so I won’t add anything there. What I’d like to notice is the wrath of God, especially as it concerns the persecution of the saints. God cannot be loving without being wrathful. Those two attributes go together. Indeed, because God is loving that He is wrathful. God loves the martyrs so he avenges them by pouring out his wrath. Notice that God’s wrath isn’t like ours. He makes no mistakes in judgement. It isn’t undeserved, if anything God has been patient with mankind by not pouring out his wrath sooner.

Notice also how this wrath serves to harden the hearts of those who hate God. They continue to curse him and blaspheme rather than repent and come to God on his terms. The fact that the wrath comes in waves serves to demonstrate that there is time and opportunity for repentance, but people continue to harden their heart. They would rather shake their finite fist at the Creator than repent of sin and turn to Him…. They are broken beyond repair. They will not turn from their sin.

I think this passage should cause a real sobriety among God’s people. We should recognize that God is in control, he will bring justice in his own time and at the exact right time. We should be quick to repent knowing that God offers all sorts of opportunities along the way to seek repentance. We should also be scared to ever harden our heart against God.

FATHER, I pray that we have tender hearts today. I ask that we would be ready to receive your word. We stand in awe of your greatness and your sovereignty. We are thankful for your patience and we rejoice in your justice. We pray that we would always be quick to repent when we find ourselves in sin. Thank you for the grace of leading your flock. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

Find out about New Testament 90 – Here

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