January 22, 2009 § 9 Comments
I have always been pro-choice. As a Christian, I can’t see it any other way. It’s about free will, and it’s about tolerance. Those two notions are clearly set out in the Bible, and if you’re a Christian who tries to love your fellow human beings, as the Bible says you should do, then you should also be pro-choice.
This is why I love this video I found on YouTube. A young man went to a group of pro-lifers who were demonstrating on the streets and asked each of them this question:
“If abortion were illegal, what should be done with the women who have illegal abortions?”
It’s a simple question, but one which gets back to the principles of compassion and tolerance so entrenched in the Bible. Watch them struggle to come to grips with what sort of punishment these women should receive, and you’ll see they can’t answer.
I’m glad someone had the courage to go out there and ask this question, because people who try to impose their religious beliefs on others are not doing God’s will. The pain that women suffer through after aborting is greater than any sort of pointless legal action that could be taken against them. They have pangs of remorse and go through bouts of depression for years or even decades. It’s not something I’d wish on anybody, but I strongly believe that they should have the option to do this if they feel it is necessary.
[via Unreasonable Faith]
February 9, 2008 § 6 Comments
The Israelites have returned to their lands after a period of captivity, and they are asking for God’s help in this psalm. They feel that they are still not right with Him, and are begging for His forgiveness. What makes this psalm interesting is the supposed dialog between God and the people of Israel.
God replies in verses 8 through 13. Verse 8 says:
“I am listening. What is God’s message? Yahweh’s message is peace for His people, for His faithful, if only they renounce their folly.”
It sort of leaves you wondering what these people’s “folly” is, doesn’t? Remember what Solomon wrote once? “Fear of God is the beginning of wisdom,” he said. I imagine this “folly” of theirs must be the opposite of wisdom. They must give it up and move toward the opposite side of the spectrum, toward wisdom. To do that, they must begin to fear God. Verse 9 confirms this. The pieces are starting to fall into place, aren’t they?
“His saving help is near for those who fear Him, His glory will dwell in our land.”
God is waiting for these people to start fearing Him, and He will right then offer His help, which is described quite beautifully in verses 10 through 13. You might think this “fear” that keeps getting mentioned here is some sort of unnatural fright that God inspires in believers. Not at all. This psalm is a great example of true repentance, because it shows its two important stages, which show whether it (the repentance) is genuine or not.
Stage 1 is asking for forgiveness and for help. That’s done in verses 4 through 7. Forgiveness is implied here, and that’s the way it is. God is ready to forgive us as soon as we ask for it. His love is boundless. But our repentance isn’t complete unless Stage 2 occurs, and that’s where “fear” comes into play. What the Bible means by “fear” is that we should be concerned about God when we are next faced with a choice to sin. We should be afraid of causing Him pain and suffering. Because He suffers every time we sin, and He suffers even more after He’s forgiven us and we commit the same sin, again and again.
That’s what “fear” means. It means having enough respect for God to think about Him when we are faced with choosing to sin and fulfilling our trite, flesh-driven desires. Do we have enough respect for Him? Do we fear Him enough? Do we realize that we’re hurting our all-powerful Creator, who gave us life and who could take it away in an instant? Do we realize we’re hurting the One being that is always ready to help and bless us, no matter what, if only we’d turn to Him?
That’s the question this psalm poses. It’s a powerful question, and one that we all need to ask ourselves.
August 18, 2007 § Leave a Comment
The tone here is more subdued, more humble than in Psalm 79. That’s good. Still, this psalm is short on repentance and big on requests. Give us this, give us that, restore us, why did you leave us — the whole thing goes on like this. The only acknowledgment of guilt is in verse 18: “Never again will we turn away from You, give us life and we will call upon Your name.”
In view of this admission, brief and full of empty promise as it is, the question posed in verse 12 becomes rhetorical: “Why have you broken down its fences?” There’s no fooling anyone here. The author of the psalm knows why, we know why, and more importantly, God knows why — He had a very good and just reason.
The psalm is otherwise full of metaphors, which by themselves are quite beautiful. In the larger context, I fail to see what value they bring to a prayer which was meant to have less flourish and more honest repentance. Nevertheless, I like the reference to God as a shepherd in verse 1, the presentation of Israel as a vine in verse 8 (this image is carried through to the end of the prayer), and the wonderful entreaty (repeated in verses 3 and 19), “let Your face shine on us and we shall be safe.”
Taking another step back from the text, I have to wonder how many of our own prayers are like this. We’re always asking God for more things, complaining about how things are going, wanting it to be better, but not wondering why they’re going that way, and what part we played in causing things to work out that way.
Israel had it easy — or at least it looks that way in retrospect. What I mean by that is that they knew they had to stay close to God in order to survive and thrive as a nation surrounded by hostile, pagan people. Nowadays it’s a lot harder to see God’s presence among us. We can easily slip into superficiality in our beliefs, and go to church or the synagogue while not really clinging to God as if our lives depended on it. We begin to think we can make out just fine on our own, that we don’t really need God. Before we know it, we wonder what’s the point of religion, and then things really start going downhill…
Because it’s so much harder to see God at work in today’s world, it’s very important that we keep an account of our prayer requests, and see when and if they’re fulfilled. I’m talking about even those simple little requests — like those times when we ask Him to keep us safe as we’re driving home, or to make our tires last a few months longer, till we can afford new ones. If we do this, we’ll be surprised, even shocked, as we tally up the count and discover Him right there, beside us, the whole time, working things out for our protection and benefit, quietly, peacefully, lovingly.
In those moments of awe, the perfect thing to do is to fall on our knees in a quiet spot, and thank Him. I tell you, if we truly knew how many times God helps us, every single day, by keeping us from danger, or working things out to our benefit, or creating opportunities for us to use our talents, we would never doubt His existence and love for us.
August 10, 2007 § 1 Comment
This psalm reminds me of Psalm 74. We hear the same cries for justice, for revenge, for restoration, and again, I can’t help thinking they did something to deserve it.
Oh, I have nothing against prayers for forgiveness — but this psalm isn’t one of them. In all 13 verses and hundreds of words, there are only four words that resemble such a prayer. You’ll find them in verse 9: “wipe away our sins”. I don’t consider that a prayer. When you look at the tone, it’s more of a request. As a matter of fact, I find the tone of this entire psalm brash and unrepentant.
Instead of falling on his knees and begging God for grace and redemption, the author of the psalm blames Him for allowing pagans to invade Israel and Jerusalem. He complains that people have been killed, and that the nation of Israel has become the laughing stock of its neighbors. There is no remorse in this psalm — there is only reproach toward God. The author requests that Israel receive its deliverance for the sake of God’s name; he invokes this as a right, since they considered themselves God’s people. Truly, they had been chosen, but it was never a birthright. It needed to be deserved, and the privilege of God’s favor remained with them only when merited. Otherwise, this psalm wouldn’t have been written.
How quickly people forget that God owes us nothing! We owe Him everything, but most of us of us do nothing for Him.
Even more repulsive is the request for vengeance on not only the nations that invaded them, but on their neighbors, for daring to laugh at their misery. Add to that the hollow-sounding declarations of verses 8 and 13, where the author asks God not to count against them “the guilt of former generations”, then promises to thank Him “for ever”, and to recite His praises “from age to age”, and you’ve got one pitiful psalm.
What about the guilt of that generation, the one that sparked God’s anger in the first place? There’s no mention of that in the psalm! I need do nothing to refute the claim made in verse 13. History itself proves it false.
I wonder, how hard is it for people to learn (Jew and Christian alike) not to make false promises to God? Do they think they’re fooling Him? Or are they fooling themselves?
I’m pretty sure this prayer fell on deaf ears, but then that should come as no surprise to the attentive reader.
January 27, 2007 § Leave a Comment
The author of this psalm remembers the times of God’s tremendous miracles — the times (then) of old, when God had delivered the people of Israel out of Egypt, and took them through the Red Sea as if it were dry land. He wonders if God will ever act like that on behalf of Israel.
It’s obvious the nation of Israel was going through hard times when this psalm was written, and this psalm is a plea for action from God. The author is afraid that the Lord abandoned them forever, and His anger with them will not cease. It’s interesting that the psalm is open-ended. There is no final plea, simply a remembrance of the times of old: “You guided your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.” It befits the psalm. It gives the impression that the author expects God to make the next step, whatever that will be.
The questions asked in this psalm apply to all of us. After we do something bad, after we sin, we feel terrible, too. We begin to wonder, was this it? Has God now abandoned us? Will He never again “show favour” to us? But the answers depend purely on us, you see. That’s because God is constant. He always loves us. His anger with us ceases. He wants to show us favor. But we must do our part. Even if we have fallen, we must continue to come to Him. We must ask confess our sins in prayer and ask forgiveness.
Then the healing process begins. As we continue to walk with Him, we feel His presence in our lives once more. We begin to discern the blessings He pours out on us. We feel His love encircling us, protecting us from danger, taking us through our days and strengthening us. We begin to know He exists again, and His wonderful Holy Spirit makes its dwelling place in our souls once more. But we must stay close to Him. The moment we stray, we fall again, and depending on the gravity of our sin, we must start from scratch again. It’s a painful process for us, and it’s even more painful for God, because He loves us and every one of our sins hurts Him, no matter how little they are. The most important thing though, is to continue in our walk with Him. If we seek Him earnestly, we will find Him. He will be there for us, always.
December 23, 2006 § 1 Comment
As we all prepare for Christmas and are busy buying gifts, making food, deserts and planning parties, let us take a moment to remember the greatest gift of all, the reason for the season. In a manger in Bethlehem, a little more than 2,000 years ago, a little baby was born to a virgin mother. He was God’s gift to all of us, the one chance of salvation we have. All we need do is to believe on Him that is, the one Son of God, who gave His life for all, so that we may all have life, and have it abundantly. Don’t let shopping and busy-ness and schedules make you forget why we celebrate Christmas. Remember, believe, and be saved!
November 7, 2006 § 1 Comment
This short psalm records a self-professed “poor and needy” man’s cry to God. From the looks of it, he appears to be in a serious situation, where others may demand his life. And yet others mock him for his “misfortunes”. It’s interesting how many of the psalms, including this one, demand retribution for the behavior of other people. Not only does the author of this psalm want deliverance from his situation, but he also wants those who went after him or made fun of him to pay for what they’ve done, in one way or another. About a third of the psalm is dedicated to this.
The counter argument is also presented, where the righteous are praised, and the righteous include the author of the psalm, of course: “But joy and happiness in you to all who seek you. Let them ceaselessly cry, ‘God is great’, who love your saving power.” The author, however, doesn’t cry this same cry, although he considers himself part of this group. Instead, he cries for help, and he wants it now: “… God, come quickly to me! … do not delay!” What he’s implying is, “God, I’ll praise you after you deliver me. Now hurry up and do it…”
This psalm underlines the difficulties we have when praying under duress or extraordinary circumstances. We assume we’re being persecuted, we assume we’re in the right, we associate ourselves with those who are in the right, we know we should be praising God but we don’t. Instead, we moan and groan, asking for immediate help out of our misery. And oh yes, we also find the time to wish for revenge, as if we haven’t got enough on our plates. It’s really tough for us to keep our backbone straight sometimes, isn’t it? If we’re right, shouldn’t we rejoice? God deserves better behavior than this! I’m reminded of the apostle Paul’s behavior while in prison, after being beaten and bound. He started singing and praising God. Did he complain? Did he moan and groan? He had no time for any of that. He was happy to praise God. And what happened? God delivered him out of prison. An earthquake shook the place. Angels entered the prison. His chains and bonds fell apart, as did those of the other prisoners. The prison keeper became a believer, as did his family. Although it’s a really tough act to emulate, that’s what we should be doing when in trouble. We should praise God! It’s easy to praise Him when we’re doing great and everything’s fine, but the only way to show Him that we really mean it is to do it while things aren’t going well.
August 10, 2006 § Leave a Comment
This psalm unfurls like a little play. It’s different from other psalms, because the narrative thread is continuous. The author begins with a plea for protection, then describes the reason for it: wicked people are seeking his destruction, and hurting him in secret by spreading evil words. I love the way he describes them: “They search out iniquities; they accomplish a dilligent search.” In other words, they looked thoroughly for a way to make trouble, and they found it.
But the author trusts in God’s deliverance: “God shall shoot at them with an arrow; suddenly shall they be wounded.” Deus ex machina may be a less common plot mechanism in worldly tales, but in the Bible, it’s the norm.
I can just see the imagery of verse 8: “So they shall make their own tongue to fall upon themselves: all that see them shall flee away.” Can you picture it? A huge tongue, blackened with deceit and wickedness, which they’ve been wagging about, turns upon them, and crushes them. I’ll say one thing about the author of this psalm: he’s got imagination! (Yes, I know, he was only using a figure of speech…)
The story ends wonderfully, of course. “And all men shall fear, and shall declare the work of God; for they shall wisely consider of His doing.” In other words, everyone realizes it doesn’t pay to be wicked and starts playing nice. And, this also serves to strengthen the righteous, who’ve been rooting for the good guy and for God all along, and have now been justified in their beliefs: “The righteous shall be glad in the Lord, and shall trust in Him.”
Although the tone of this post was a little tongue-in-cheek, the message still comes through: those who are steadfast in their devotion to God will not be let down. It may not happen during their lifetime, but the evil shall get it, and boy, they’ll get it good! I’m talking about the final judgment, when the righteous get their day in court and the sentence is pronounced upon the wicked. It’s coming. “And all the upright in heart shall glory.”
August 9, 2006 § Leave a Comment
There are some powerful phrases in this psalm, which not only serve to illustrate beautifully the point of the author, but also serve as reminders of how one’s faith in and desire for God should manifest. (I’m going to ignore verses 9 and 10, since I’ve already said plenty of times that it’s wrong to wish for revenge.)
For example, let’s look at verse 1: “my heart thirsts for you, my body longs for you, as a land parched, dreary and waterless.” Have you ever felt that way? Jesus said He was the water of Life, and by knowing Him, we would never be thirsty again. Have you ever had such a strong desire to be close to God? It should be natural. We shouldn’t shy away from it. He is our Creator, and we should want to be with Him.
How about verse 3: “better Your faithful love than life itself.” How true! Yet how many of us cling to this earthly life, so full of disappointments, of lies and deceit, and of decrepit old age and vanity… How can this be more precious than eternal life with God? I’m not saying we should forsake our earthly life, but we should live our days here on earth in preparation for an eternity with God, not sinning and going after fleeting pleasures that only remove us from Him.
Have you ever had an epiphany like the one described in verses 6, 7 and 8? Have you ever realized that God has always been there for you through the tough times? Have you realized how His hand has supported you through the toughest and most forbidding of circumstances, and carried you out unscathed? I have, and it’s a powerful reminder of His power to me.
I invite you to get to know God, to discover how wonderful it is to rest in Him, safe in the knowledge that He will take care of you, of even your smallest desires and wishes, and will welcome you to an eternity with Him after a life well-lived, observing His loving commandments.
May 26, 2006 § 2 Comments
This psalm can be interpreted both historically, in the context of David’s experience with Doeg the Edomite – the “wicked” person referred to in this psalm – and prophetically, as the two experiences to be had by those who “would not place [their] reliance on God,” and those who “put [their] trust in God’s faithful love”.
The use of the tree metaphor, so interesting to follow in the Bible, shows up here as well. We find it in verse 5, where David writes “… uproot you from the land of the living.” It signifies the fate that awaits the evil ones, and it’s important to observe its meaning. There is a violent, but brief end, that awaits those who are evil. The end is also permanent. Once a tree is uprooted, it doesn’t live anymore, and it’s either burned, or disposed of in another way. This puts to doubt theories floating around these days, such as the one about the lake of fire and brimstone that burns forever, and also some other ones that say our souls, being somehow immortal, will float around forever, or reincarnate into something else. No, I think this verse, along with many in the Bible, makes it clear that the end of those judged and found wanting will be brief and permanent. It doesn’t take forever to uproot a tree. Quite the contrary, given God’s awesome power, I imagine He can uproot something instantly. It will be the same with the wicked. They’ll be disposed of, instantly, and permanently.
The contrast is quite marked between the fate of the wicked and the fate of those who put their trust in God. Another tree metaphor is used, but to an opposite effect: “But I, like a flourishing olive tree in the house of God, put my trust in God’s faithful love for ever and ever.” The good will flourish and be protected by God. There is a clear indication of permanence here – opposite from the one discussed before. The good will permanently reside in God’s presence, and will “praise [God] for ever for what [He] has done.” While the evil will be gone for good, the good will live for ever in God’s presence. It’s, as seen in other Bible texts, a clear, binary fate.
Finally, why an olive tree? Because olive oil was vital to Jewish culture. It was used for many things, among which was the anointing with God’s blessings, or an anointing for a special purpose, like when someone became a king or a prophet. It was also used for an anointing of healing, as it still is used today in certain churches. So when the term “olive tree” is used, it brings to mind all of these meanings. What’s more, its use in connection with those who are good, who become olive trees (not literally, but figuratively), indicates that God’s blessings will no longer be poured onto us, but will flow from us. We will be fully integrated as God’s children in His re-Creation, and we will fit in perfectly.
It’s a joyous picture to behold, and it gives me great encouragement when I think about it!