An Ancient Description of our Modern Culture
Friday, January 15th
“The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity; there is none who does good. God looks down from heaven on the children of man to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God.” Psalm 53:1-2.
This psalm is actually almost a repeat of Psalm 14. Obviously, Israel and David were experiencing another crisis as enemies attacked Israel again and David is recalling the earlier psalm he had written as it brings a new sense of hope and perspective in the current crisis. And isn’t that how the Word of God works. God may speak to you in a moment through one passage, but later that same passage may encourage and strengthen you in another situation. That is why it is so important to be reading the Scriptures. That is the primary way God speaks to us today. The more we know Scripture, the more opportunity we give God to really impact and speak into our lives.
But this psalm, like psalm 14, written thousands of years ago, clearly describes the culture we live in. God didn’t create the world; the world was brought into being by evolution. Could such a beautiful and complex world be the result of chance or random happenings? There are many different gods and no one faith is any more true that any other? Is there no such thing as truth or is truth just what we make it up to be? We could go on and on. Verses 1-3 describe the sad truth that all people are prone to go their own way; to ignore God and to do their own thing. From a human perspective they are not evil and are relatively good, but they still reject God. We also see God’s heart in verse 2 as God is constantly looking for those who would search for him. He is always willing to forgive and welcome anyone at any time into his family.
Verses 4-5 speak specifically about those people who act and speak in an especially evil way. God has a special judgement for those who create and act in evil ways—the Hitlers, the Stalins, the murderers, the rapists and others who perpetuate great evil. While God is merciful and gracious, it is comforting to know that God is also just and the perpetrators of evil will ultimately be judged and punished by God.
And the psalmist comes back to his real hope and strength—the almighty, creator God, the God of Israel. “Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When God restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!” Psalm 53:6. There is always reason to hope in God; He is always steadfast and faithful to those who love Him. We give thanks and praise your name, O God.
“The Big Lie We want to Believe”
Wednesday, January 13th
“Why do you boast of evil, O mighty man? The steadfast love of God endures all day . . . See the one who would not take refuge in God, but trusted in abundant riches, and sought refuge in wealth!” Psalm 52:1, 7.
Since the beginning of creation, we have been spinning this lie that we command our own destiny, that we don’t need God. We are self-sufficient and control our own destiny. The issue in the verse above is not money per se but our trust in our own abilities to control life. We make ourselves out to be our own god and we know best and do not need anyone else’s help, especially God’s help. We assume the meaning of life is pleasure, or self-fulfillment (however we define what that is) or independence— “being our own person.”
And from the beginning of creation right through to the present day, God is right there waiting and is unchanging. He is absolutely consistent and just in all He does. He is always going to be there as any of us approach the end of our lives. He will judge those who think they can live life without him. He will respect their choices and give them life without God for all eternity.
But to those who find their strength in God, he will always be there supporting and encouraging those who seek refuge in Him. David says, “But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever. I will praise you forever for what you have done; in your name I will hope, for your name is good. I will praise you in the presence of your saints.” Psalm 52:8-9
David is saying that no matter what happens in life he will flourish because God’s love is steadfast and he will always have hope, so he can wait on God.
But there is another side to this—God’s love is steadfast and is always there ready to welcome and receive anyone who will see through the lie and finally acknowledge that they don’t control their lives and they need the presence of God in their lives. There is always hope for them as Jesus demonstrated with the thief on the cross.
Thank God, that love is always steadfast; that you are absolutely trustworthy and unchanging. Thank you that I can rest in the knowledge that you are in control. Amen.
The Heart of Faith
Monday, January 11th
“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!” Psalm 51:1-2.
This famous psalm was penned by David after the prophet Nathan confronted David because he had committed adultery with Bathsheba. See 2 Samuel 11-12.
These two verses sum up the core truths of the Christian faith. We have all broken and ignored God’s commandments to do what we want. We have offended God. But God’s heart is to show us mercy and to forgive us because he wants to love on us more than we could ever know.
We don’t like the term sin today. It’s considered obsolete and arbitrary because we should be free to do what we want. Sin is not about doing something wrong as much as it is about ignoring God, our creator, and saying that we don’t need him in our lives, and we will do whatever we want. Is that what a good parent would say to their child, “We don’t care what you do; do whatever you want.” Of course not! Because as a parent we want the best life possible for our children and they need to learn what is best for them. God, our creator, is our Heavenly Father (Our Father who art in heaven) and he knows what is best and we were created to be in relationship to him.
In verse 6, David writes these important words. “Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.” The healthiest way to live is to be honest with ourselves, with others and with God. And that’s what this psalm is about. David had to get honest with himself about his motives and actions that he had justified to himself. He had to get honest with others and with God.
If we are really honest, we all know we have said and done the wrong things, have hurt others and have ignored God in the way we live. That kind of honesty brings a lightness and serenity to our lives. It’s the best way to live. David acknowledges his wrong to God because he knows that God is a forgiving God. The ultimate example of his forgiveness is Jesus’ death on the cross. That and only then do we find real joy, when we are at peace with our creator, other people and with ourselves.
Thank you, God, that you are so willing to forgive. Help me to appreciate more fully the depth of your love for me.
God Comes as Judge and Jury
Friday, January 8th
“The Mighty One, God, the LORD, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to the place where it sets. From Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth. Our God comes and will not be silent; a fire devours before him, and around him a tempest rages. He summons the heavens above, and the earth, that he may judge his people.” Psalm 50:1-14.
In centuries past God was portrayed as a righteous judge that we all should fear. In our current age we only tend to talk about the love of God. But the truth is that God as the one true Almighty, Creator God, is the ultimate example of love and grace and also completely just and righteous. He tolerates no evil, selfishness or law breakers in his presence, but at the same time wants to forgive everyone through Jesus’ death and resurrection so that they will be spared his judgment and experience his love. Would we want to worship a god who was not a combination of both holiness and love?
In the Christian faith there is a tension between what we believe and how we live, between faith and practice. What we believe is best expressed in what we do as James talks about in chapter 2. So often we think our words are enough, but God expects our motives and our actions to be an expression of what we say we believe. That is why the church is so often charged with hypocrisy.
So, to God’s followers, the psalmist issues a warning to let your lives reflect what word you speak. in verse 7, God speaks to his people, “Hear, O my people, and I will speak, O Israel, and I will testify against you: I am God, your God.” But if you honestly seek to live for God, he promises you have nothing to fear, “Giving thanks is the sacrifice that honors me, and I will surely save all who obey me.” Psalm 50:23.
But to those who ignore God and do what they want, God promises a withering judgment, “Consider this, you who forget God, or I will tear you to pieces, with none to rescue.” Psalm 50:22.
We may not like that last thought, but this psalm is a perfect picture of God’s holiness and his love. As his people we should remember this. How are we living? Are we living in a way that pleases God? Do we have a heart concern for those who forget God?
Both need to be at the heart of all we pray and all we do as Christ followers.