June 26, 2010 § 5 Comments
One of the things I keep hearing is that I ought to turn the other cheek when someone does me wrong, because I’m a Christian. That I ought to love a bad person and make amends for him or her, because that’s what God would do, and that’s what we’ve been told in the Bible.
Really? I don’t think so.
Only a superficial reading of the Bible, or as most Christians do, a non-reading of the Bible, coupled with what a minister or priest or preacher once said, lead to that sort of understanding.
A Christian in doubt need only consult his or her Bible to see how God deals with the wicked, in both the Old and the New Testaments. Even Jesus Christ, while on Earth, didn’t waste His time with the wicked. Look through the Gospels to see how he dealt with the pharisees and the moneychangers in the temple. And see His instructions to the disciples regarding the cities that would not listen to His message.
Why then do pastors keep clinging to the same clichés when it comes to Christian behavior? Perhaps they love the touchy-feely message of the New Testament, which would be a wrong reading of the gospels. Perhaps they’re not comfortable with judging others. Perhaps they themselves are superficial and haven’t taken the time to read through the Bible properly. Who knows… What I do know is God doesn’t waste His time with bad people. Jesus condemned their behavior constantly, berated them, judged them and warned them to change, then left them to their own devices. Remember free will? It still applies, for both good and evil.
What then of turning the other cheek and all the rest of it? Yes, we ought to, when it’s someone we love, or when it’s someone who we see is trying to lead a good life but has stumbled, someone who’s made a mistake but wants our forgiveness. Jesus constantly forgave His disciples’ shortcomings and glaring defects, because they were trying to obey Him, and He wanted to work with them. He went into Matthew’s house (the tax collector) because he wanted to be good in spite of his bad lifestyle. He associated with good people, stayed with them, spent time with them, but only tolerated the bad ones, or eliminated them from His daily walks altogether.
Some might say we don’t have His insight into the human soul, so we can’t tell who’s truly good and who’s truly bad. Perhaps, but I don’t think He’d begrudge us if we eliminated someone from our lives who is constantly gossiping about us, or making things up about us, or lying to others about us, or lying to us. And He’d definitely not mind if we had nothing more to do with someone who’s tried to cause us harm, physical or financial or some other kind. It’d be foolish of us to continue to associate with those kinds of people, both from a worldly and Godly point of view. You can keep turning the other cheek to those people, and they’ll keep on slapping you. They don’t deserve our kindness, nor our time, nor our consideration.
Keep this in mind the next time someone says you ought to turn the other cheek… And if you don’t believe me, search your Bible.
July 14, 2009 § Leave a Comment
I was reading Ezekiel 33 this morning, and verses 7-9 state perfectly why I feel the need to write here at Dignoscentia.
“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade him from his ways, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the wicked man to turn from his ways and he does not do so, he will die for his sin, but you will have saved yourself.”
As a believer in God and in God’s Law, I feel the need to share what I have learned from the Bible with others, in the hope that if they’re doing something that may be wrong, they might learn it’s wrong and turn from it. I’m not saying what I write is necessarily right — who knows, I could be wrong too — but at least I’m trying to shed light on the truth. I’ve always said that it’s each person’s responsibility to seek out the truth for themselves. It’s not about forcing people to believe in certain things or behave in certain ways. It’s about letting them make free, yet informed choices about their beliefs. If I can only get someone thinking and searching for the truth and for the right path in their life, then I’ve done my job.
Here’s how God feels about it:
“Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?’
“Therefore, son of man, say to your countrymen, ‘The righteousness of the righteous man will not save him when he disobeys, and the wickedness of the wicked man will not cause him to fall when he turns from it. The righteous man, if he sins, will not be allowed to live because of his former righteousness.’ If I tell the righteous man that he will surely live, but then he trusts in his righteousness and does evil, none of the righteous things he has done will be remembered; he will die for the evil he has done. And if I say to the wicked man, ‘You will surely die,’ but he then turns away from his sin and does what is just and right — if he gives back what he took in pledge for a loan, returns what he has stolen, follows the decrees that give life, and does no evil, he will surely live; he will not die.”
“None of the sins he has committed will be remembered against him. He has done what is just and right; he will surely live.”
Those were verses 11-16 in the same chapter (33) in Ezekiel. Now isn’t that something to rejoice about?
June 7, 2008 § Leave a Comment
You start reading Psalm 89 — it’s a fairly long psalm — and you’re literally fooled by its author into thinking it’s a text praising God and His many blessings bestowed on David and the nation of Israel. There are 52 verses in the psalm, and up to verse 37, that’s all the author does: praise God until the cows come home.
Then, in verse 37, the other shoe drops. We see now why he’s been praising God so much: it was all done because he wants to take Him to task for failing to live up on His promises — or so the author would have us believe. The whole three quarters of this psalm taken up by the excessive praises are a setup — a farce — and when the author reveals the truth, we see him for what he is: an angry person who’s been lying to the reader — and to God, one might say — all along.
Even the psalm’s byline is false. It’s called a “hymn and prayer to God the faithful”. Hah! Look what the author says in verse 49: “Lord, what of those pledges of your faithful love? You made an oath to David by your constancy.” And then he goes on and on, throughout verses 37-52, reminding God that He is NOT faithful. That’s mockery, plain and simple as the nose on my face.
Because the whole first three quarters of this psalm is a farce, I’m not even going to discuss those verses. Instead, I’ll focus on the “rebukes to God” section…
In verse 47, the author writes: “for what pointless end did you create all the children of Adam?” What the man is really saying is why he’s still alive, and why Israel’s enemies exist. First, let’s remember that everyone on earth, back then, and now as well, is a child of Adam. As to why God created us, and we we live, and why things are happening to each of us that we may not understand, I answer with God’s own words: “Who is this, obscuring my intentions with his ignorant words?” (Job, 38:2).
I encourage you to read God’s entire answer there in the Book of Job, from chapter 38 to chapter 41. If you don’t understand any of it, it’s okay. That’s the point. We don’t understand God, and no matter how hard we try, we never will. When He chooses to reveal something to us, He does so of His own will, and only when we can understand it.
As for this whole blaming God thing, I understand the author’s viewpoint. We all tend to blame God when things go wrong. And when they’re right and we’re doing great, we tend to ascribe the credit for that to ourselves, not to God. Because we can do it all, right? Well, if we’re so damned smart and capable, why can’t we manage to get ourselves out of situations like the one that the author of this psalm writes about?
The author acknowledges that when God made the covenant with David, He said:
“Should his descendants desert my law, and not keep to my rulings, should they violate my statutes, and not observe my commandments, then I shall punish their offences with the rod, their guilt with the whip, but I shall never withdraw from him my faithful love, I shall not belie my constancy.” (verses 30-33)
What did he expect? That God would wag His finger at Israel and say “No, no, bad country! Don’t do that again!” Did he expect God’s punishment to equate to a slap on the wrist? God made it clear through the ages (and even when He made his covenant with Israel during the time of Moses), that He would punish Israel severely if they did not stay faithful to Him. He threatened to dissolve their country and to spread them throughout the world, and that happened repeatedly throughout history. The longest such punishment took place after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.
God’s wrath is awesome. Don’t take His punishment lightly. I think that’s the lesson to be gotten from this psalm. His blessings are bountiful and go beyond measure. Our cups overflow when He pours them out, but let’s keep in mind that they will overflow as well when He pours out His punishments. He is to be feared. He is God. Don’t mess with Him, and don’t attempt to understand Him. Don’t blame Him, either, especially after He made it clear what would happen to you if you didn’t obey Him. The author of this psalm doesn’t seem to get this part, but I have a feeling that he learned his lesson at some later point of his life.
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.
July 28, 2006 § Leave a Comment
This is the prayer of a Levite in exile, longing to be restored to God’s Temple. I like the metaphor used in the second verse to refer to the Temple, namely, “the high rock”. We meet this image throughout the Bible when referring to God’s Word, or to Jesus Christ – the two being the same, of course, as John 1:1 clarifies.
I like verse 3 as well. The image of the “strong tower” may not conjure up much resistance against our enemies today, in the age of airplanes and cruise missiles, but back when this psalm was written, a massive, tall tower was the absolute defense. You could defend yourself for months, or even years, in such a structure. It was nearly impossible to take.
The writer wishes to “take refuge in the shelter of [God's] wings”. Before we get caught up in the visual imagery, it’s important to remember that God has no wings, and needs no wings. If we think back to the structure of the earthly Temple, in the Most Holy place, the Arch of the Covenant was found. It was a golden box which housed the Ten Commandments, and some manna from the desert. On top, two golden heruvims were sculpted, their wings covering it. The imagery used in this fourth verse is referring most likely to the Ten Commandments, and verse 5 encourages this interpretation, since it says: “For you, God, accept my vows, you grant me the heritage of those who fear Your name.” Of course, we know that when we make a promise to obey the Ten Commandments, we make a vow to God, and in return, He grants us the promises He made to those that fear His name, such as forgiveness from sins and eternal life.
The meaning of verses 6 and 7 is two-pronged. They could be referring to an earthly king, but given that this Levite was in exile, it was very likely that there was no earthly king when he wrote this psalm. It’s more likely that it’s referring to the Messiah. The Levites’ hope was that He (Jesus Christ) would rule as a king on Earth. They didn’t quite understand God’s plan, but to their credit, they didn’t have the New Testament either, and the meaning of the book of Daniel was locked in time, not to be revealed fully until more recent times. We, as Christians, possess an incredible amount of knowledge and clarification on the nature of God, God’s Son, the Holy Spirit, and prophecy in general, and therefore our responsibilities are much greater. Remember what Jesus said, that we are each responsible for living in the light given to us. Those who have been given much are expected to do much.
It’s easy to pass over verse 8 and assume it’s a typical Levite phrase. Sure, he’ll sing God’s praises, and fulfill his vows, that’s great… But we ought to remember just what fulfilling one’s vows means, in light of the meaning of verses 4 and 5. It means to obey God’s commandments, to find refuge in the safety they offer. And doesn’t it behoove Christians to also praise God daily? There’s nothing particularly Levitic about this verse. It applies just as well to us, and we should remember that.
June 6, 2006 § Leave a Comment
Oh, how I wish these things didn’t jump out at me so! I read through Psalm 54, and couldn’t help noticing verses 5 and 7. Read the psalm and tell me, are these Biblical sentiments? Is this what Jesus would do? Would you wish this on your enemies?
I can’t help thinking David’s CPU skipped a few computing cycles when he wrote these words. They’re fairly cruel, and coming from a man who experienced God’s love and care from a young age, they’re very dissonant.
Revenge is God’s. That’s why we should wish for anyone’s evil deeds to recoil on them. We also shouldn’t want to feast our eyes on our enemies. We shouldn’t gloat when God brings us higher than others – the merit isn’t ours, and we don’t deserve to be there. None of us deserve special treatment. But some of us get it because we seek God, and so He cuts us slack. He forgives us, time and time again, and yet we still fail. But as long as we get up and seek Him again, He welcomes us back. So you see, we’re not worthy when it comes down to the truth. We’re just as sinful as others. It’s hypocritical and truly mean of us to laugh at those whom God chooses to humiliate or destroy, when we too would be subject to the same fate, but for the grace of God.
May 20, 2006 § Leave a Comment
I read this psalm repeatedly, over multiple days, before I wrote about it. Every time I read it, what I’m going to talk about stuck out at me like a sore thumb. I just couldn’t get past it. Fair warning: what I’m going to say will go contrary to what you might believe about this psalm – after all, this is known as David’s great confession.
Well, I think it’s David’s not so great, quite incomplete, confession. There are two verses that illustrate this point. Please understand I’m not judging him. Read till the end, and you’ll see my point – that the onus is ours to make our prayers better, in particular when confessing something. David’s omissions in this psalm are used as illustrations.
Verse 4: “Against you, you alone, I have sinned, I have done what you see to be wrong…” Did he? History shows that he not only sinned against God, he sinned against many people. First, against Uriah by killing him, against Bathsheba by drawing her into adultery, against their unborn son, who later died because of his sin, and finally, against his nation, to whom he should have been a better example. There is no mention of this in the psalm, unfortunately.
Verse 5: “Remember, I was born guilty, a sinner from the moment of conception…” That’s like a criminal saying in court that he did it because of original sin. It’s a poor excuse at best, and it’s a shame that he brings it into what’s supposed to be a prayer of contrition for some dastardly acts. He makes matters worse by saying this in the next sentence: “But you delight in sincerity of heart…” Yes, that is true, but I am hard pressed to find true sincerity in this prayer. I’d really like to know what God thought of this prayer when He first heard it.
Can you see how much better and complete this prayer would have been if he had admitted all to God, and not played the blame game? These two things were so important to his prayer, and they’re just as important in each of our own prayers.
Let’s face it, we alone decide whether to sin or not. We have complete freedom of will – unless we’re mad – and so we can’t blame others or Adam and Eve for what we ourselves do. What’s more, we owe it to God – if we are to expect full pardon – to make a complete confession, where we don’t skirt the real issues. We can’t fool God – He sees right through us. It’s not as if we’re less guilty if we confess less. It only makes us look worse in the end.
May 16, 2006 § Leave a Comment
This psalm is an sharp indictment of human deception. It has a mix of eschatological elements and good Old Testament teaching. If you’ve been following along with my posts on the Psalms, you’ll recognize the prophetic passage right away. It goes from verse 1 to verse 6. I’m going to focus on verses 7 through 15 today. These verses bring out the clear purpose of the sacrifices the Israelites were to make to God. More than this, they condemn us, the modern believers, just the same. Here’s why.
The temple sacrifices were never intended as a replacement of the act of true inner repentance. They were to be examples of the price one has to pay for sin – that price is death. God clearly didn’t want and doesn’t want the “flesh of bulls” and the “blood of goats”. He has no use for them. Besides, everything is His anyway. I like how the author of the psalm puts it: “If I am hungry I shall not tell you…” In the past, it was believed that pagan gods needed the sacrifices of flesh (human or animal) in order to live – apparently, that was their sustenance. Obviously, God wants nothing to do with that nonsense.
There is another Bible passage that comes to mind, whose location I cannot remember at the moment: “The sacrifice pleasing to God is a humble spirit and a contrite heart.” That’s what God is saying in this psalm. He wants us to offer real sacrifices, the kind that show we truly love and respect Him, such as those of “thanksgiving”. It is when we “fulfill the vows [we] make to [Him] in time of trouble” that He is happy. It is then He “will rescue [us]“.
So many of us make empty promises to Him, particularly when we are desperate for help. We say we’ll do this and that, if only He’ll get us out of the mess we’re in. Once things are better, we discard those promises as if they were dirty clothes, and move on with our lives. Oh sure, we keep up the outward appearance of sacrifice, but that doesn’t really mean anything. In the past, they kept “those burnt offerings constantly” before God. The modern equivalent consists of the mask we wear at church, and of the words we use when we pray in public. How many of us can say that we’re WYSIWYG here? God knows, and our true natures don’t make Him happy. Fortunately, we can fix the problem. It’s very easy to start. All we need do is to graciously give God the thanks for all we are and all we have.
April 27, 2006 § Leave a Comment
I wrote about this psalm yesterday, and today, I want to develop another idea found in it. The upright are defined in all sorts of ways in this psalm, and they’re exhorted to “do good”, or to “do right”. The thing is, how do we know when we’re doing right or wrong? Do we have some innate compass of our own, that will let us know that? Nowadays, folks would have you believe it. They say, “follow your heart”, or “your heart is true”. But how does your heart know? By itself, it’s nothing. We know very well if we examine ourselves deeply, that most of our desires are not something we’d want to advertise, and our motivations for doing things aren’t always what we’d want others to believe. And that’s to be expected – we’re just fallible people, born in sin. We can’t make it on our own.
The point I’m trying to make is, of ourselves, we aren’t doing so well at choosing what’s wrong or right. We can follow our hearts, but they’re not a true compass, regardless of what others might be saying. Well, the answer is in this psalm, and you see, back when it was written, if someone said, “follow your heart”, it was understood that this was also true: “the law of his God is in his heart, his foot will never slip.” (verse 31) Now, they’ve forgotten about the Law of God, but without it, our hearts are empty. They have no internal compass.
Well, what is God’s law, you ask? I encourage you to read it when you get a chance. It’s not long, and you’ll see it’s the foundation of just about every moral and ethical principle we consider good nowadays. It’s found in Exodus 20:1-17, and it’s called The Decalogue. These Ten Commandments are what define an “upright” man as referred to in this psalm. The author of this psalm assumed it was a given that an “upright” man would obey the commandments, and that they would be in his heart.
March 18, 2006 § Leave a Comment
Ati realizat vreodata cat de vital este pentru noi, persoane muritoare si pacatoase sa fim aproape de Dumnezeu in orice clipa? Daca nu ne apropiem sa citim cuvantul Lui, daca nu lasam ca gandurile noastre sa fie dominate de prezenta Lui, atunci totul e ca si pierdut.
De curand pastorul bisericii nostre a spus un gand interesant: “Atata timp cat noi pastram distanta fata de Domnul chiar si pentru o perioada scurta din zi, suntem in pericolul de a avea indoieli in privinta lucrurilor care pana atunci ni se pareau nocive, murdare pentru moralitatea si curatia caracterului nostru.” Mai bine zis, ni se “deschid ochii” si vedem lucrurile dintr-o alta perspectiva, incercand parca sa ne convingem singuri ca nu e chiar asa de pacatos un lucru si nu e nimic rau daca-l infaptuim. Spre exemplu, nu cred ca ar fi chiar asa de rau daca iau banii care tocmai i-au cazut colegului meu din buzunar si-i infund in buzunarul meu fara sa scot o vorba. Da, si nu consider gresit daca imi mai permit din cand in cand sa-mi mint prietenul cel mai bun sau sa spun o vorba rea despre alta persoana.
Vedeti, asa se joaca Satana cu noi. Lucreaza intr-un mod atat de subtil incat ne face sa credem ca ideea este a noastra personala, fara sa recunoasca ca de fapt el e cel care isi vara codita si ne convinge. Cauta exact momentul cand noi suntem cei mai vulnerabili, atunci cand suntem departe de Domnul si ataca fara sa-i pese. In timp ce el actioneaza si isi pune planul la cale, in mintea noastra aluneca atatea intrebari la care tot noi ne dam raspunsul. “Oare mai trebuie sa mai tinem la principiile invatate in copilarie, sunt asa de invechite si oamenii le-au abandonat. N-ar trebui sa fim si noi mai moderni? Ce atatea principii morale, porunci – sa nu furi, sa nu minti, sa nu poftesti, sa nu vorbesti porcos, sa nu, sa nu… Ia sa mai fac si cum simt eu, ca doar pe asta se pune baza astazi – pe simtaminte venite din inima. Va pun acum o intrebare: de unde stim ce sursa au simtamintele care ne inunda mintea? Vin ele de la Dumnezeu sau de la alta forta care incearca sa ne distruga prin propriile noastre actiuni?
Timpul trece, noi uitam complet sau partial de Cel ce ne-a creat si uite asa ne vine randul sa suportam consecintele actiunilor noastre, principiilor noastre slabite, modernizate. Cine e vinovat oare? Asa e viata dupa cum stim toti, toate lucrurile rele care le-am facut odata demult se intorc spre noi. Satana se intoarce impotriva noastra si “arata cu degetul, striga” ca sa se convinga ca vede si aude toata lumea, razandu-ne in fata. Ce tactica marsava! Oare care dintre cele doua forte ne vor binele? Cine este pentru noi, si cine e impotriva noastra?
Deciziile ne apartin, iar pentru noi sunt predestinate doua cai in viata. Una pe care o putem urma calauziti de Dumnezeu, avandu-l pe El prietenul si sustinerea noastra, iar cealalta este calea pe care o alegem noi fara Dumnezeu, influentati de forta care vrea sa ne tarasca cat de jos posibil. Ai doua optiuni in viata, prima pentru care trebuie sa te lupti, sa lucrezi cinstit si mai ales sa ai un Prieten ales langa tine, iar a doua prin care poti de asemenea sa primesti succes, bani, tot ce-ti doresti dar doar pentru o scurta perioada de timp, cu garantia sa fii nefericit si acoperit de vinovatie pana la moarte.