Archive for March, 2007

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Psalm 136 – a series, 6

March 16, 2007

Once again, I encourage you to read Psalm 136 here.

The previous reflection, the fifth, is here.

You may remember back to where I stated that through verse 22 was a list of thanksgiving for the LORD God’s work concerning Israel’s salvation from Egypt and unto the promised land. In the section from verse 23 to the end we have a new aspect. Instead of a list for thanksgiving, we are now directed to God’s remembrance (v. 23), rescue (v. 24) and provision (v. 25). We are also shifted from a reading of Israel’s history to a reading of Israel’s then-present circumstance – “remembered us” and “rescued us”.

The steadfast love of God is shown to still be enduring. God is working at the time the Psalm is written. God still remembers His people. God still rescues His people. God still provides for His people. Why does God continue in this way? Because God is a God of steadfast love that endures forever. The Psalmist writes to a people returning from the dispersion of Israel. He reminds them that their great God is still good, the God of gods and Lord of lords. He continues in His steadfast love. He shows it by again working for them all the great things He first did to deliver His people from Israel.

In the closing verse, verse 26, thanksgiving is brought to culmination. The One God who rules all from heaven continues in His abundant love for His people, constantly remembering them, rescuing them and providing for them. This sequence of steadfast love finds its greatest fulfillment in the cross of Jesus Christ – remembering us sinners, rescuing us from hell and providing for us now and throughout eternity. For this He deserves forever our greatest thanks!

“Give thanks to the God of heaven,
for his steadfast love endures forever.”

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Psalm 136 – a series, 5

March 15, 2007

Again, be patient with me, please read Psalm 136 before continuing. It is found here.

The previous (fourth) reflection can be found here.

In the section spanning verses 16 to 22 God continues to detail His work in the deliverance of Israel and the establishment of their kingdom. God removed kings by killing them. He names specific kings that were removed. These bring to mind the specific accounts where Israel was obedient to God in the removal of those kings and kingdoms (Numbers 21:21-35). The Amorites were judged by God to be completely eliminated. God not only made this just decision but carried it out through Israel’s strict obedience. Each of these actions cleared a land for His chosen people to populate. God worked to complete a heritage for Israel, His servant.

The LORD shows His sovereignty and justice against those who have completed their iniquity (Genesis 15:16). He also shows His love to His people Israel. His love is shown by using them for His purpose. He also shows it by providing for them. God loves again in promising to hold His part of the covenant by continually passing the land to His people as a heritage. The promise to give the land as a heritage and fulfilling His promise shows God’s “steadfast love”. These are each reasons we should continually, even today, thank God.

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Am I saved? And Hebrews 6

March 14, 2007

This blog has a great little feature where I can see if someone types a search string in Google or Yahoo or something in order to find this site. One string implied a person (I never know who) was searching for assurance of their salvation in light of Hebrews 6. I recently encountered this when discussing difficult passages in general. Yesterday it was brought up again dealing with assurance of salvation. I guess it’s time to look at it.

With the Bible especially, the difficult passages should be viewed in light of the passages that more simply convey their point. Hebrews 6 often presents a difficult point. Why? Because it conveys a point that seems to be contradicted in other places of the Bible – our secure faith. So, is our faith secure? First, we will look at the passages that convey their point simply.

Romans 8:29-30 (ESV) reads,

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

All that are foreknown by God are predestined. All that are predestined are called. All that are called are justified. All that are justified are glorified when they die. There is no disconnect, no time where we opt-out.

Romans 8:38-39 reads,

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Not only is it not in ourselves to leave, nothing else in all creation can remove our salvation.

John 10:28-30 Jesus says,

I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.

Jesus promises eternal life that cannot be removed (John 17:3).

1 Peter 1:3-5 reads,

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

“An inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you”. Our salvation is secure, kept in heaven for us. You are guarded for salvation.

Our justification is from God’s grace in Jesus Christ. Consider how much He has done! Here is what I mean (in no particular order): repentance is from God, Acts 5:31 and Acts 11:18; belief is from God, Philippians 1:29; faith is from God, Ephesians 2:8-9; even our continual work in sanctification is by God, Philippians 2:12-13; our justification is from God, Romans 3:24. Though all these are from God, we still have responsibility to obey Him by working out our own salvation through His Spirit. But once we are saved, there is no way to lose our salvation. Since we did nothing for it, how could we lose it by doing or not doing something?

Since we know our salvation is secure once we are saved, how do we know we are saved initially? Romans 10:9 reads, “because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved”. Have you confessed that Jesus is the Master of your life, your Lord? Have you believed that Jesus was completely righteous (without sin), took the punishment of death for your sins and rose again to show that God accepted you as His child through Jesus’ propitiatory death? If so then you are saved. For further reading I would encourage you to read 1 John because in 1 John 5:13 John writes, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life”.

So, what about Hebrews 6?
First, an extremely important rule of reading anything is that it should be taken in context. We have gone over the assurance of our salvation. So we know that the Bible teaches that “you may know that you have eternal life”. How does Hebrews 6 fit in?

Far too often when this question arises the reader/questioner does not make it beyond verse six or eight. In verses one and two we are entreated to become mature because we know the elementary things. In verse three the author prays that we will go on from the elementary things, with God’s permission. Why will we go on from the elementary things to the mature things? Verse four and five,

For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come

We should not be continually going over these elementary things because those who came to repentance, were enlightened, have tasted the heavenly gift, shared in the Holy Spirit, tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come and again need to be restored to repentance, now have no hope. Once people experience these things it is no help to go back again to restore their repentance through the elementary things. Why is this so grievous? Verse six, “if they then fall away, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt”. Those who have such an intimate experience yet fall away are crucifying the Son of God again and holding Him up to contempt. This is truly grievous! Verse seven and eight give a short parable contrasting soils that are watered equally by God yet one “produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated” and the other “bears thorns and thistles”.

Wow! What can we conclude? Often the assumption is made that tasting the heavenly gift, sharing in the Holy Spirit, tasting the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come all indicate a person’s salvation. It is at this point we must not stop reading. Verse nine reads, “Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things–things that belong to salvation.” The author is making an appeal – we’re talking about this stuff but in your case it’s different. They spoke “in this way” about being stuck in the elementary things and those who fell away. “Yet [!] in your case” – their case was different. “Beloved”, beloved is often used of those who are saved. Compared to the list of other interactions, this one we can recognize as a term of endearment to those who are saved. The author is not worried at all about them. They have a different case. “We feel sure of better things”, the author(s) feel that better things are set for the beloved. If the previous verses were speaking about the loss of salvation then surely there would be some room to be concerned about the beloved. But this is not so, they are even “sure” of better things. What are these better things? The better things are “things that belong to salvation”. So these former things do not belong to salvation. The author was not speaking about someone who was saved in verses four through six. That was something different, “now we’re talking about salvation”!

We know that verses four to six are not speaking of salvation. What do they speak of? We are told “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” in Psalm 34:8. It seems some taste but fall away, remaining in their love of darkness (John 3:19-21).

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Psalm 136 – a series, 4

March 13, 2007

The link to Psalm 136 is here.

The link to the third reflection is here.

If you have read any of these yet then you know I am encouraging you to read through Psalm 136 before reading each reflection.

The next section, verses 10 through 16, tell of the LORD’s great work in saving His people out of Egypt. The tenth sign, the culmination, is recounted. This tenth sign shows God’s full control over all. He sustains and removes the lives of those whom He pleases (Deuteronomy 32:35). We see God’s love in saving His people out of Egypt. We see His ability to deliver them from those who oppress them. We see His love in that He arranges creation to allow His people safe passage. God destroys their enemies. The faithfulness of God and His love is shown as He leads His people through the wilderness. He leads them for 40 years. These were not the most obedient times for God’s people, yet “His steadfast love endures forever”. Through each of these events, through the complaining of the people, through the mistrust, through the rebellions, through the judgments of God, through the failing of the leaders of Israel, the LORD consistently proved to be perfect, patient and above all loving toward the people of Israel.

When is the last time we contemplated the deliverance of Israel from Egypt? It is one of the longest and most re-told parts of the Bible. Do we think on God’s love for His chosen people? Do we think on Moses, the ruler and redeemer God supplied (Acts 7:35)? Do we remember their continual sinning and repentance and the great salvation God brought them? Do we neglect our own much greater salvation in Jesus Christ?

Hebrews 2:1-3a reads,

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?

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Psalm 136 – a series, 3

March 12, 2007

The link to Psalm 136 is here.

The second reflection is here.

I would again encourage you to read through Psalm 136 before reading the reflection below.

The next section of the Psalm is made up of verses 4 through 9. The Psalmist refers us to the “great wonders” of creation. Time is taken to point to the creation of heaven, earth, sun, moon and stars. God alone created these. By His understanding He accomplished them. We are given the office of the sun, moon and stars – to rule over the day and night. And yet why were these created? They were created “for His steadfast love endures forever”. Each was created as both testimony to and care of those who would be able to know His love. And who are they? They are the ones created in His image – you and I.

What caring and powerful hands we are in – the hands of the LORD God almighty! Even the great wonders of heaven and earth were created for us. They show us the love of God through His care and understanding even before Adam and Eve were created.

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Psalm 136 – a series, 2

March 10, 2007

Again, the greatest thing you’ll read during this series in Psalm 136. Please review it again before continuing.

click here for the first reflection

The Psalmist reminds us of God’s steadfast love enduring forever. In fact, if you observed in the last reflection, I did not address the word “for” that occurs before each iteration of “His steadfast love endures forever”. The word “for” is like saying “because”. So God’s steadfast love enduring forever is the reason for something. What is it the reason for?

The Psalm begins “Give thanks to the Lord”. We give thanks, abundant thanks, ultimately because God’s steadfast love endures forever (v. 1-22). God is set in right perspective three times, enabling us to further understand who exactly we are thanking. We are giving thanks to the immutable God because He is good and His steadfast love endures forever (v.1). God’s goodness is extremely important to us and all creation. God is morally upright. His goodness impacts each of His other attributes such that nothing He does is wrong or evil. It is also important that He is the LORD, the changeless one, so that He will always be good in all His actions.

The Lord is referred to as the “God of gods” (v.2). Jesus uses this language in John 10:34 to refer back to Psalm 82:6. Jesus refers the Jews to their own law to show them that in Psalm 82, God uses the word “gods” to refer to those chosen as judges over Israel even though they judged poorly. Jesus refers to Himself in comparison to these wicked judges. Jesus has done right, never sinning, and is therefore infinitely more deserving than those men to be called God. When God refers to Himself as “God of gods” in Psalm 136:2, He asserts that He is the highest judge, the judge of all.

Thirdly, God refers to Himself as “Lord of lords”. This is not the same for for LORD used earlier in verse 1. The word Lord is used for a ruler. God is the ruler, the Lord. He rules over all of creation. Over all the lords, rulers, presidents, congressmen, dictators, God rules over them all (Romans 13:1). For this we should be thankful to God. In it He shows His steadfast love that endures forever.

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Quick thought – Contentment

March 9, 2007

I am having a miniature battle with insurance companies over a car accident. One insurance company will not pay my medical bills because the driver who hit me did not cause enough damage. As I was praying, I thought it would be so much easier if I knew God’s will or God’s work in this little aggravation.

But wait. Why should that help? Why should it be that I would be more comfortable if I knew God’s will here? Could it be because I would be able to lay some claim to the outcome then? Could it be because I want to own part of it? Could it be that I have more faith in my own understanding than in God’s understanding? I thought that when it made sense to me then I would be content. This is true sin. I have repented of that sin.

We know so much about the Lord God. He is perfect, good, gracious, merciful, loving, faithful, immutable, and on and on. God only has our best interests in mind, and those interests are utterly caught up in His glory. God is wise beyond all we can even know, so why do we think we would be more content to understand His will in difficult times? Our contentment should be unbounded, the Good Sovereign King of all the Universe reigns in omnipotence over all. And He’s my Father, why should I need to understand to be content?

Philippians 4:11b-13 (ESV):

I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.