Saturday, 29 May 2021

Bible Exposition - Habakkuk - Is God really good, when life seems so bad?


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Introduction

Is God really good, when there is so much evil and so much TRAGEDY in the world?

Well, poor Habakkuk definitely lived at a time and in a place where there was some real suffering coming over the horizon, but his big immediate problem was with the injustice and idolatry that were wrecking life in the southern kingdom of Israel during the final few decades of its existence.

And all the while, the threat posed by Babylon’s imperial expansionism grew and grew.

It seems Habakkuk lived in the closing days of the southern Kingdom of Judah … we’re not TOLD that, but it sounds like it from the way the book works out.

It seems that Habakkuk witnessed the rising tide of injustice and idolatry in the Land … as well as the threat of an expansionist Babylon with imperialistic aspirations.

It wasn’t a good situation.

But Habakkuk’s prophecy is a little bit out of the ordinary.

There is none of the usual preamble

We’re normally told something about the prophet, about his family or his hometown or something.

But Habakkuk is unannounced:

The prophecy that Habakkuk the prophet received.”

Habakkuk 1:1

And then he simply launches straight into his first complaint.

No biographical background at ALL.

Obadiah and Malachi alone share this feature with Habakkuk.

Second, there is no link to a specific time period

… although there are references in the book along the way that give the general idea.

But there’s nothing like Isaiah’s ‘The year that King Uzziah died, I saw the LORD …’

Then thirdly,

He doesn’t even speak on God’s behalf to the people.

Habakkuk is really quite unusual because here is an Old Testament prophet who does not accuse the wayward people he’s focused on.

He speaks directly to God about the trouble he sees … actually it’s all about Habakkuk’s personal struggle with trying to believe that God is good when there is so much visible evil and tragedy in the world.

Now, Habakkuk’s writings are laments … he launches complaints and draws God’s attention to these issues, demanding that God should DO something about it all.

“How long, Lord,

must I call for help, but you do not listen?

Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not save?

·       Why do you make me look at injustice?

·       Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?

Destruction and violence are before me;

there is strife, and conflict abounds.

Therefore the law is paralysed, and

justice never prevails.

The wicked hem in the righteous,

so that justice is perverted.”

                       Habakkuk 1:2-4

https://www.bible.com/113/hab.1.2-4.nivuk

 

Here’s how the book shapes up:

It starts straight out with:

 “The prophecy that Habakkuk the prophet received.”

Habakkuk 1:1

https://www.bible.com/113/hab.1.1.nivuk

That word for ‘oracle’ is a word that means ‘burden’ … it’s derived from the verb ‘to lift up’ but some suggest that there is a weighty word, a burden laid on Habakkuk’s back … which you could almost call a full rucksack ... and Habakkuk come with that urgency of a man with a burden on his back.

I wouldn’t be impressed with that argument, because the lifting up involved in that word can also be used for the lifting up of the voice … in this case the prophet’s voice as he tries to reason with God in prayer over the evil he sees in the world …

I wouldn’t be impressed with this viewing the oracle here as a burden laid on Habakkuk were it not for the way Habakkuk delivers it in a burdened, troubled and urgent way. He feels the WEIGHT of these issues, as if it was a weight on his back.

That is exactly how the poetry and the passion of this prophecy strike me … the man has had this issue powerfully laid on his tender heart by God.

 

1)   Two complaints and two responses, 1:1-2:5

a.     First complaint, 1:2-4

The Torah is neglected.

This results in violence and injustice.

And it’s all being tolerated by the corrupt leaders of Israel whose God-given role should really be to sort these things out.

And Habakkuk just keeps crying out to God about it, but he can’t see anything changing:

How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?

Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not save?

Why do you make me look at injustice?

Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?

Destruction and violence {the word is hamas!} are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralysed, and justice never prevails.

The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted.”

Habakkuk 1:2-4

That could have come straight out of the Daily Mail, couldn't it?!

But the difference is that Habakkuk views the situation with spiritual eyes.

Habakkuk is a man of desperation but the key to Habakkuk is that the man of desperation is also a man of prayer.

That is CRUCIAL and that is the point at which the situation starts to turn for the better.

In all your despair … be a man, be a woman of prayer.

 That's the first complaint.

b.     First response, 1:5-11

Against that background alleging that God isn’t doing anything … God SUDDENLY responds.

Interestingly, this goes into the second person plural here as if God is addressing not just Habvakkuk but the nation (or at least the faithful people in the Nation) for whom Habakkuk has been speaking as their representative.

 Here it comes (1:5)

 

“‘Look at the nations and watch – and be utterly amazed.

For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.

I am raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwellings not their own.”

Habakkuk 1:5-6

 

Habakkuk has been complaining (1:3) that God forces him to witness injustice, but God now turns back to Habakkuk and the rest of the Nation in the plural and says: ‘No, don't tell me to look ... YOU look!’

 

Now, sometimes when you pour out your complaint to God, you get a response that you were not expecting and that you wouldn’t necessarily have chosen!

Habakkuk is that man … 

Habakkuk’s message here is much like the message of Micah and Isaiah when God says He will use this terrifying Empire to devour Israel because of their injustice and idolatry.

It’s plural … look, see, wonder, be astounded.

But ‘among the nations’?

Is this the outside, the non-believing community, or is it God’s people?

There is a textual variant which sounds just slightly different (just one letter different) and means NOT ‘the Nations’ but ‘the treacherous ones’.

That’s the way the LXX translates it.

That’s how Paul uses it and quotes it in Acts 13:41 warning the Jews in the synagogue at Pisidian Antioch not to be like the treacherous ones in Habakkuk 1:5.

And if that’s the correct reading and translation of this word here those in v. 5, treacherous ones appear again in v. 13 of this same chapter where they are called ‘the treacherous ones’

So Habakkuk has been complaining that God is not DOING anything, but God has said: ‘Look over there to the East of you’.

V. 5 God says ‘I AM going to do something about it’, then vv. 6-11 ‘now let me tell you WHAT I’m going to do about it’ … surprise!

It will be something getting done from the OUTSIDE.

God is going to deal with sin within His own family (which has become ungodly by using an even MORE ungodly outside source to show up the evilness of evil to His people and bring them back to Himself.

God using evil for good in the lives of His people to put the desire for good in their hearts.

Tell me we aren’t seeing ungodly forces from outside clarifying the issues and winnow inside His church today?!

c.     Second complaint, 1:12-2:1

Now we’re back to the second person singular as Habakkuk picks up the problem of theodicy … the origin and the understanding of suffering and evil in this world.

Basically, Habakkuk is going on now to question how God can actively DO what He proposes using the Babylonians and complaining that Babylon is even WORSE than Israel …

·       deifying their own military power,

·       treating humans like animals (gathering them up like fish in a net) and

·       swallowing up whole people groups to build their Own Empire.

So Habakkuk’s issue … and he puts it to God directly in this second complaint … is ‘how can You, a just God, use such awful people as the Babylonians to be your instruments in human history?’

“Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?”

Habakkuk 1:13

https://www.bible.com/113/hab.1.13.nivuk

 

Fundamentally, Habakkuk is outraged at God … a dangerous position to be in, quite possibly … casting himself in the role of a watchman posted on the city walls:

“I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint.”

Habakkuk 2:1

https://www.bible.com/113/hab.2.1.nivuk

He’s being pretty bold.

And God is going to give Habakkuk a straight answer which is explicitly not just for Habakkuk.

 

d.     Second response, 2:2-5

 Yuo know, there's an old Latin legal phrase: Fīat jūstitia ruat cælum  ...meaning

"Let justice be done though the heavens fall."

The maxim signifies the belief that justice must be realized regardless of consequences.

That’s approximately what’s going on here … but there’s also more:

 God tells Habakkuk to get a lump of rock and a chisel and carve into it:

“Then the Lord replied: ‘Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.”

Habakkuk 2:2

https://www.bible.com/113/hab.2.2.nivuk

 

The idea is to create something that will be portable but permanent … it can travel with exiled Israel once the Babylonians have sent them off into captivity,  but it is not going to rot like a piece of papyrus.

It will take time to work out what God has planned so a permanent record is necessary and travel is going to be involved, so the permanent record must be portable.

The vision will take a lot of trust to stay faithful to it, but God assures Habakkuk (in words that take on greater significance in New Testament times when believers will need to hold onto God’s promise of the coming deliverance of Eternal Life through times of trial, persecution and diaspora) …

“‘See, the enemy is puffed up; his desires are not upright – but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness –”

Habakkuk 2:4

https://www.bible.com/113/hab.2.4.nivuk

The promise Habakkuk is to engrave on that lump of rock is that God WILL bring Babylon down - but the righteous perso will live through it by his faithfulness.

The violence and oppression of empires like Babylon creates a never-ending cycle of revenge and God will use this to bring about the rise and fall of nations which operate in this way.

The fact that God might USE a corrupt nation like Babylon does NOT mean that He endorses all that they do.

On the contrary, God holds accountable all nations that behave the way Babylon does and He will act to deal with Babylon and all like them.

And that leads into the next section of the book where God seems to decree what He has just promised to Habakkuk … which he writes on his rock.

 

2)   Five ‘woes’, 2:6-20

This is the opposite of blessing being called down by God on the wrongs of the Chaldeans …

How can God use a people worse than Israel to be His instrument of judgement against Israel?

Oh, they are going to get caught up with by God and are already living under these woes God speaks out against them!

There’s a particularity to these woes. They're about specific things.

 

a.     First and second woe - unjust economics

The first woe is to those who have rigged the system of borrowing to exploit the poor.

Modern echoes there.

God is ANGRY with that.

The second woe is against the world of privatised wealth, where wealthy people use their wealth to push poor people down and make themselves richer.

b.     Third woe – a critique of slave labour

This is about the civil leaders whose enterprise for the state is to serve themselves …

Treating humans like animals and threatening them with violence if they don’t produce:

“‘Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and

establishes a town by injustice!”

Habakkuk 2:12

https://www.bible.com/113/hab.2.12.nivuk

It’s FUTILE!

“For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord

as the waters cover the sea.”

Habakkuk 2:14

https://www.bible.com/113/hab.2.14.nivuk

 

Where’s the Glory going to go?

Not to the expansionists!

They set their hearts on that.

We set our hearts on THAT day when the Glory goes to God … and that enable sus to put up with ALL sorts of things in the here and now.

 

c.     Fourth woe – the abuse of alcohol by irresponsible leaders

While oppressing their people, these leaders are partying and wasting money on sex and booze.

d.     Fifth woe exposes idolatry

… the thing that drives the other sins and failures

They have made money and power into their gods, offering these allegiance … with people becoming slaves to their own national Empire.

 

And this ends with the warning statement … uttered in the presence of the prophet who had complained of God’s non-involvement and inactivity:

 

““The Lord is in his holy temple;

let all the earth be silent before him.”

Habakkuk 2:20

https://www.bible.com/113/hab.2.20.nivuk

 

The problem of theodicy … evil in the world … now in chapter 3 (it’ll be in verse 3) gives way to theophany: the coming of the Lord Himself, the One Who steps right IN to His people’s pain and need.

Here's  the actual solution ... God comes to His people.

But there’s something really important to notice first, something which does a lot to explain where this book first in the unfolding of the faith.


3)   Central universal principle, 3:1-19

This is NOT just about the Babylonian Empire in the five and six hundreds BC.

This answer Habakkuk receives for his situation becomes God’s answer to subsequent people in subsequent nations who find themselves in circumstances where they are ruled over by ‘other Babylons’.

But that begs the question, then:

Is God going to allow this endless cycle of the rise of idolatrous, violent and oppressive world systems go on for ever?

That’s what chapter three comes to be all about because chapter 3 (we’re told) is a prayer of Habakkuk but it seems to be cast in the form of an Ancient Near Eastern ‘taunt song’!

 

a.     Plea for God to bring down corrupt nations

It’s based on God having done this in the past, but it seems a bit ironic because Israel has become a corrupt nation and Habakkuk is protesting against God bringing it down …

“A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet.

On shigionoth.”

Aha!

So this is a song – we’re told the tune - and this is also a prayer.

Here it comes:

 

Lord, I have heard of your fame;

 I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord.

Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known;

in wrath remember mercy.”

Habakkuk 3:1-2

https://www.bible.com/113/hab.3.1-2.nivuk

 

Habakkuk is in a position where He prays for stuff then gets more than he bargained for again, here, there’s been a bit of God appearing silent then appearing suddenly out of nowhere already in this book …

 

b.     God appears in POWER! 3:3-7

This all looks pretty similar to the way God appears in Nahum, in Micah and (in fact) also at Mount Sinai!

 

“God came from Teman, the Holy One from Mount Paran.

His glory covered the heavens and his praise filled the earth.”

Habakkuk 3:3

https://www.bible.com/113/hab.3.3.nivuk

 

Cloud, fire, earthquake …

And someone has very aptly said:

“When the Creator turns up to confront evil, everybody will be paying attention!”

And then, in the midst of judgement there is redemption ...


c.     New Exodus typology, 3:8-15

Habakkuk (possibly with thoughts of Sinai still running through his mind) goes on to describe God’s intervention as leading to a future new Exodus, when God came as a warrior fighting for His people and split the sea in His battle with Pharaoh:

“You came out to deliver your people, to save your anointed one.

You crushed the leader of the land of wickedness, you stripped him from head to foot.

With his own spear you pierced his head when his warriors stormed out to scatter us, gloating as though about to devour the wretched who were in hiding.

You trampled the sea with your horses, churning the great waters.”

Habakkuk 3:13-15

 

https://www.bible.com/113/hab.3.13-15.nivuk

 

Pharaoh has here (like Babylon) become an archetype of violent, enslaving nations.

But at THAT point:

“You came out to deliver your people,

to save your anointed one.

You crushed the leader of the land of wickedness, 

There are echoes here of Genesis 3:15!

"you stripped him from head to foot.”

Habakkuk 3:13 NIVUK

https://www.bible.com/113/hab.3.13.nivuk

But in our enthusiasm for the downfall of evil, we mustn’t miss that there’s a clear reference here to God saving His people along with a reference to His anointed one:

v. 13 “You came out to deliver your people, to save your anointed one.”

It’s a reference to the line of Davidic Kings in which the hope of Israel lay, with great David’s Greater Son ... the Anointed One, the Messiah.

The memory of the past Exodus become the image of the New Exodus that God will perform.

He will once again defeat evil.

He will once again bring down the Pharaohs and the Babylons of this world.

He will bring justice to all people.

He will rescue the oppressed and the innocent.

This is what enables Habakkuk to close the book with hopeful praise.


d.     Concluding hopeful praise, vv. 16-19

“I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled.

Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us.

Though

·       the fig-tree does not bud and

·       there are no grapes on the vines, though

·       the olive crop fails and

·       the fields produce no food, though

·       there are no sheep in the sheepfold and

·       no cattle in the stalls,

yet

·       I will rejoice in the Lord,

·       I will be joyful in God my Saviour.

The Sovereign Lord is my strength;

he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,

he enables me to tread on the heights.

For the director of music. On my stringed instruments.”

Habakkuk 3:16-19 NIVUK

https://www.bible.com/113/hab.3.16-19.nivuk

Oh yes.

Did you notice that by the end there NOTHING has improved, things are in fact ABOUT to get WORSE … and yet Habakkuk has changed, and by faith in God’s promise Habakkuk is singing?!

Whether there is violence and oppression, or food shortage or drought … or whatever … Habakkuk will choose trust and JOY in the covenant promises of God.

 

Conclusion

What’s happened by the end of this book is that Habakkuk has become a shining example of how the righteous DO live by faith.

Yes … the justification that comes by God comes by faith alone.

But the faith that justifies does NOT come alone … it comes bringing a life lived faithfully, patiently, trusting to the long-distance promises of God to deal with the trials and the troubles of the life lived more immediately, and Habakkuk recognises how dark and how troubled that more immediate life can become.

He invites US into that journey in faith through this immediate life, trusting to the God Who loves this broken world so much more than we do, trusting that He is NOT looking the other way but is watching it closely and (as in the past but more decisively) He will one day deal with its evil.

There is so much more than Biblical teaching on institutional evil going on here.

As Paul writes to Roman believers living and suffering persecution from the evil Empire of THEIR day:

“For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed – a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’”

Romans 1:17

https://www.bible.com/113/rom.1.17.nivuk

That verse is, I want to suggest to you, not simply a text about the mechanics of salvation, but is also about how to live as a believer through times when the wicked seem to triumph, when evil and oppressive powers persecute the Church of God and when to us the Lord seems very far away.

Hebrews 10:38 backs that idea … making it about fidelity … setting this verse and the earlier use in Genesis 16:5 where Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness - setting those in the context where we have to trust God for what He says even when our sight tells us the opposite.

And that's exactly what faith is ...

God wants our on-going fidelity when it looks like He isn’t coming in for us, coming to our aid.

And THAT’s what the book of Habakkuk should be doing to us: giving those who have been put right with God by grace through faith alone the encouragement we need, the stuimulus we need to live by faithfulness.

May God bless our hearts through His Word.





Friday, 28 May 2021

Thought for the Day 28/05/21 - Take a life?

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I recently came across someone with a military background in life trying to tell a younger man that he needs to learn to take a life to save a life.

I think I really do understand what the older man was trying to say, but something in me wanted to protest more than a bit.

Why was that?


Take a life to save a life … yes or no?

Would YOU take a life to save a life … or not?

I suppose it's ...

Easier in the heat of the moment

It’s a difficult moral dilemma … unless, I suppose, you are a soldier engaging the enemy in close quarters combat with the responsibility to protect your comrades from the enemy all around you as you engage them in all-out warfare. 

I imagine the choices are slightly easier then. But it must be harder in a cold courage situation.

Harder in a cold courage situation

In the short psychological drama ’Take a Life to Save a Life' (2016) directed by Jack Booth, journalist Naveen Reynolds faces the moral dilemma of whether terrorists who murder, rape and torture innocent people deserve to die. 

It majors on the question of whether all killing is murder and whether killing some sorts of people is justified. 

That’s an important question … but, again, it’s a tricky one.

Taking a risk to save a life seems a clearer moral issue

Every now and again I seem to wind up in a situation where I need to put myself out a bit to give assistance to somebody who’s been injured or who has become unwell. 

Driving dodgy rural roads and visiting farms in the course of my work it’s bound to happen … but I seem to get more than my share somehow. 

I was on a farm earlier this week where I was first to respond to a traumatic amputation a couple of years back, and this week on the very same spot I needed to deal with what seems to have been a cerebrovascular event ... some sort of disruption in the blood supply to a person's brain.

Let’s face it when that sort of thing suddenly occurs, you DO have to control the tightening of your stomach and the desire to melt into the background ... shrinking back as you're confronted with a serious injury or illness. 

There's no doubt, it takes a bit of laying yourself open to step up and deal with the traumatic event.

It could stretch you, it could scar you mentally, you could end up a bit messy and you might fail to resolve things successfully, despite your best efforts. But in normal times it’s not going to cost you too much.

Would you take that risk to save a life?

Most of the time, most of us probably would.

But in COVID times … the risks of getting close to a casualty to administer first aid within the training you’ve received is a bit more risky. There are things we might have been trained to do before the pandemic that put us at significant risk and that probably shouldn’t be attempted outside hospital in these times of higher risk.

Which brings us to the MUCH higher risk question:

It's one thing to take another's life to save a life and another thing to affect your own life by stepping in to save another's life ... but would you lay down your life to save a life?

That's a very different ball game altogether!


Laying down YOUR life to save a life

In our Verse for the Day the Apostle Paul writes:


"“However, 

I consider my life worth nothing to me; 

my only aim is to finish the race and 

complete the task 

the Lord Jesus has given me 

– the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”


                                                   ‭‭Acts‬ ‭20:24‬




Now, of course you always have the right to NOT lay down your life to save a life.

It's up to you.

And the higher the stakes are for the other person ... well, that also seems to colour the picture. You'd probably take more risks to save a young one than you would to save an old codger (just be aware that I'm speaking personally here as 'an old codger'!)

Now, it's hard to really KNOW in advance how you'd respond in a hypothetical crisis situation, of course it is, but that's not the sort of thing Paul's talking about in our Verse for the Day.

He's talking about laying down the sort of choices he could have made to live the life he could have led and doing that day by day in the here and now, because his life is actually on the line for the Kingdom of God.

His ultimate sacrifice is actually a living sacrifice (see Romans 12:1), a day-by-day one, not just a hypothetical one waiting to see if the absolute crisis comes somewhere down the line and how he will respond if it does so.

In Paul's case, of course, we believe it did come to that for him in the end, but he'd been living those choices every day of his Christian life up until that point which no doubt stood him in good stead when the crisis came.

The Point

What characterises the life choices of the believer is that the Lord Jesus Christ laid down His rights for my wrongs ... and once you've really taken THAT on board, it colours all the personal choices you subsequently make.

Every day.

Not living the self-serving life we might have done, but making the choices that stand to save eternal lives for folks around us ... that's the Christian way.

It's not a matter of our lives being worth nothing, but of investing them in a way that means they come to be really worth something.

Paul's saying the key to THAT is counting his life worth nothing to him, compared to what investing it in THIS way makes it worth to so many.


The Take away

The call of the Gospel has always been to 'Come-Live-Die' ... to some extent or other.

So today, how do we understand that call, and how do we flesh out the answer to this question in the personal choices that we will make today?

Thursday, 27 May 2021

Thought for the Day 27/05/21 - Things that we don't like the sound of ...

 Click here for AUDIO

  • Hard work

  • Discipline

  • Medicine

  • Dentist

... things that we don't very much like the sound of can often be the way to get what we really do want.


With the Olympics coming up in a few weeks, hundreds of people from all over the world are putting themselves through pain, effort, physiotherapy and worse to get to the objective they have trained for throughout their lives ... their moment of glory on the podium.


They live painfully now for a future hope

According to what's become a bit of a favouriyte website of mine,  www.solvingprocrastination.com:

"People often procrastinate on tasks which are associated with rewards that they will only receive a while after completing the task, since people tend to discount the value of rewards that are far in the future, a phenomenon known as temporal discounting or delay discounting.

Accordingly, people often display a present bias when they choose to engage in activities that reward them in the short-term, at the expense of working on tasks that would lead to better outcomes for them in the long term."

Genuine faith in Christ involves the willingness to lay aside things in the short term to benefit in the long term.

So ... in the words of the Verse for the Day, it is a sign of the genuineness of the Thessalonian Christians faith that they ...


"... turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 

and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead 

– Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath."

1 Thessalonians 1:9‭-‬10




This is a sign that something has definitely changed for these Thessalonian Christians, as ...


This was no small thing in Thessalonica

Their commerce and business, as well as their social lives, were tied up in the guilds that revolved around the worship of idols.

They turned away from those things .... and that was personally costly.

Serving the living and true God involved costly ethical personal choices too.

And even to this day, the ethical and professional or business choices genuine Christianity leads into can involve implications for believers in the here and now, who are living faithfully for the coming there and then.


The Point

But the Thessalonians' genuineness was evident, as they made those costly choices in the here and now because they genuinely believed and genuinely realised the importance of the coming there and then.


The Takeaway


Paul writes to the Corinthian church:

"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, 

but on what is unseen, 

since what is seen is temporary, 

but what is unseen is eternal."

2 Corinthians 4:18


So, where are we fixing our eyes?

Are we making the best possible choice?



Wednesday, 26 May 2021

Thought for the Day 26/05/21 - Where's yer God now then?

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"Where's yer God now, then?' 

Have you ever had THAT sort of question launched at you?

It can be a pretty tough sort of taunt for anyone to bear, especially when you're tempted to think that after THAT thing you have done, why would God still bother with YOU, anyway?!

A torrid time in life


This Psalm of David (as the heading of the psalm decsribes it) portrays itself as coming from a time in David's life when Israel's most famous king was going through the wars ... quite literally.

It portrays itself as being from the time when David was overthrown in his God-given role as Israel's King by his very own son, Absalom.

Now, David hasn't exactly been true to the Lord as he should have been in the time immediately before this palace coup happened.

The incident with Bathsheba the wife of Uriah the Hittite and the shameful way David had then treated Uriah when Uriah called David out for this conduct ... and as David tried hard to cover his tracks rather than confess and renounce his serious sin ... it was all pretty fresh and painful stuff.

Overthrown in a painful palace coup


David HAD done very badly, things hadn't gone well for him since, and now he was in a terrible situation where his own son had gathered a gang of adventurers around him and seized from his father the Kingdom.

A lot of the language used in this psalm is military language, as David 
  • complains against his many enemies (vv. 1-2), 

  • expresses confidence in God's ability to answer his prayers (vv. 3-4), 

  • places his trust firmly in God for deliverance (vv. 5-6), and 

  • prays for God to grant him victory (vv. 7-8)

At this point in his life, David's self-confidence seems to be pretty low, but his God-confidence really comes into play and is the key to redeeming the situation.

God-confidence


What we read in the Verse for the Day here in Psalm 3 today is really pretty God-confident stuff ... given how everything is falling apart and how seriously David has rebelled against God through his actions.

It is in the midst of that, with most of Israel having deserted and turned against him, that David delivers our Verse for the Day:

"Many are saying of me, ‘God will not deliver him.’ 

But you, Lord, are a shield around me, 

my glory, the One who lifts my head high."

                                         Psalms 3:2‭-‬3




Things did go wrong for David after his adultery with Bathsheba and the abuse of his power to remove her then husband, Uriah, from the scene.

(Yup. The Bible is not prudish ... some say it's racy but it's actually just real.)

David's reign was normally pretty godly and pretty prosperous, so times when David is so forsaken by God are not very common.

Look how bad a time it was:

  • The King - God's anointed - was taunted

  • Worse, he was taunted about His God's faithfulness: 'God won't help him now!' they said

  • The effect of David's sin is to cast David's covenant-keeping God in a bad light

David KNOWS it.

David seems to have recognised his error by this point, to have turned his heart back towards God and to have placed his trust back in God, casting himself on God and His mercy for deliverance.

Rejecting the easy option of despair


It would have been easy for David to despair at the embarassment, hardship and deprivation of his circumstances and turn away from the God he had so deeply offended.

David doesn't.

Yes, there is no shortage pf people to say of the disgraced David, as the Hebrew text reads:  “there is no deliverance for him in God.”

But sinner-man David knows better than that, he knows the faithfulness of God and of God's grace and faithfulness shown to His Covenant People.

Oh yes, plenty of people out there are saying the opposite of David, but David knows God well enough to realise:

"But you, Lord, are 
  • a shield that protects me;

  • you are my glory and 

  • the one who restores me."

                          (Psalm 3:3)


The Point

The point is that, whilst there are plenty people trying to tell him otherwise, David knows that God not only accepts but restores sinners who repent and trust Him..

And David DOESN'T despair at the shame of his own sin, but takes himself back, like the prodigal son in the parable in Luke 15, to his Father.

The Takeaway

God is the protective shield, the Glory and the restorer Who lifts the head of the sinner, rebel and failure who turns back to Him.

Don't let your own failures and the shame of them ... nor the taunts of your critics ... send you turning away from God in despair.

Now more than ever you need to turn back to God.

Now more than ever you need to trust Him, Who is the wall of defence all around you, your Glory in the midst of your shame and the un-stoppable lifter of your head as you turn back to Him.




Thought for the Day 02/07/21 - It's time for HOLI-BOBS!

Here's a sound bite from the podcast AUDIO Here's the Studio Cam version which is VIDEO  Oh yes! It is July, and people's though...