Monday, June 30, 2014

Balancing the Scales

"Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, 
for as many years as we have seen trouble."
Psalm 90:15

It is believed that Moses was the author of Psalm 90, the oldest Psalm in the book. The days of affliction in Moses' life and those of his fellow Israelites in the wilderness had been many. They had endured trouble and captivity for seventy years. Here we find him pleading with the LORD to "balance the scales" so to speak. For as many days as there had been grief and misery he was asking for joyful days in return. For as many years as they had seen great sorrow, trials, affliction and unrest, he was pleading with God to repay them with peace and prosperity. He was asking for God's favor to rest upon them (v. 17). 

Having seen years of captivity, trouble and affliction in my own life I find such joy in this verse. Joy that hopes in the goodness of God. Even in the midst of extreme difficulties God has shown me the silver lining on more than one occasion. He has been my peace in the midst of deep pain, my strong tower in times of trouble. May His hand of favor rest upon my own future. May He bring an increase of peace and prosperity, increase in my marriage and ministry, increase in my faith and my friendships. 

As Charles Spurgeon expounds on this verse he says, "If we have fierce afflictions we may look for overflowing delights, and our faith may boldly ask for them. God who is great in justice when He chastens will not be little in mercy when He blesses, He will be great through and through: let us appeal to Him with unstaggering faith."

Father God, You are Faithful, Good, Able and True. Thank You for delivering me from the painful trials in my life. Thank You for Your faithfulness in affliction. God, I ask You to grant increased favor, peace and prosperity in return for all those years of trouble. May Your hand of favor rest upon me and my family. Balance the scales I pray. Establish the work of our hands that we might walk in obedience to You. Oh, that You would bless us in Jesus' name, amen.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Set Apart

"On that night I will pass though Egypt and strike down every firstborn -- both men and animals -- and I will bring judgement on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt." Exodus 12:12-13

Camping out on verse 13 about the blood, I take in the rich symbolism. God had asked the Israelites to choose a lamb, one per family, to be used for Passover. The lamb was to be a "year-old male without defect," either a sheep or a goat (v. 5). After a period of four days if it was proven to be without blemish it could be used. This represents the testing of Christ that proved His holiness. The lamb, once proven, would be killed representing Christ's death on the cross. 

Then we come to the blood. It was to be applied to "the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs" (v. 7). This represents the choice we have to by faith, "apply" the blood of Christ to our lives for the redemption of sin (salvation), and therefore rules out the belief that everyone will be restored to God, otherwise known as universalism. I like the footnote in my NIV Bible on this that implies the blood and the blood alone, nothing added to it, "constituted a perfect protection from judgement". It was a sign that those who dwelled in that home belonged to the Lord and the house should be passed over. As the old hymn "Rock of Ages" goes, "Nothing in my hand I bring, Simoly to thy cross I cling." The cross and blood are enough.

Hebrews 10:14 elaborates on this stating "by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy". Those "being made holy" are those who have chosen to turn from sin, accept Christ's sacrifice, and put their faith in Him.

The natural outcome of putting one's faith in Christ is to start looking less and less like the world and more and more like Him. We are called to be "set apart". "Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the LORD" (2 Corinthians 6:17). And when we live "set apart" as unto the Lord, delighting ourselves in Him, we have a divine protection. Charles Spurgeon speaks to the "one condition" of this verse as it relates to God's protection. Speaking of Christ he says, "Where I see the blood I will pass over you. What a blessed condition! It does not say when you see the blood but when I see it." Nothing but the blood of Christ can save. He is the one that must see we have applied it to our lives. It is His blood that covers over our sin and makes us acceptable in God's sight. Trials will come. His Word promises that. But for the one in Christ, the sting may be less. Healing will come. Glorious healing whether this side of heaven or that. In Christ is the safest place to be. 

On a practical level I consider myself and my own home. Am I living as one set apart for God's good works? Is my home set apart for His work and our refuge, free from filth and idols? If judgement came upon my neighborhood today would my house be "passed over" and see less destruction, less of a sting, than one not set apart for Christ? Food for thought...

Father God, fill me up with Your Holy Spirit today. Empower me to do Your will. Help me as I strive, and my family strives, to live lives set apart from the world for Your purposes and Your glory. In Jesus' name, amen.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Given Over to Darkness

"So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and total darkness covered all Egypt for three days... Yet all the Israelites had light in the places they lived." Exodus 10:22, 23b

Time after time, judgement after judgement, Pharoh's heart remained hard toward the requests of God. Every time he agreed to let the Israelites go he reneged on his promise. He was not a man of his word. So God continued with attempts to get his attention. In this passage it is through utter darkness. The kind of dark you'd experience deep in a cave. Like touring the Florida Caverns and having the tour guide cut the lights. The kind of dark where you can't see your hand in front of your face. Like the utter darkness of hell. That kind of dark.

Yet the Israelites, God's people, had light where they lived. And oddly enough their light did not pierce the darkness that was paralyzingly the Egyptians. Their light was a reflection of God's favor and the darkness, God's wrath. 

This judgement symbolizes the darkness of the hard-hearted souls that refuse to turn from their wicked ways. I think of the destruction brought upon Sodom, a people bent on perversion and depravity who refused to turn from their wicked ways. I reflect on Romans 1:21-25 where Paul warns that those who persist in sin will eventually be given over to it. 

"For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen."

...given over to sin and depraved minds. Such sin and immorality are places of blinding darkness.

"Spiritual darkness is spiritual bondage. Those who rebel against the light of God's Word are punished with darkness, for they loved it and chose it. Let us dread the consequences of sin; if three days' darkness was so dreadful, what will everlasting darkness be?" (paraphrased from Matthew Henry's Commentary)

Though the ones ensnared may be surrounded by believers, just as the Egyptians were in community with the Israelites, they are seemingly not affected or pierced by the Light within them. They are ignorant to the truth because they are bent on sin. And those bent on sin have their backs to God. They might put up a good front in the presence of believing friends because such sin is often kept secret. The one stuck in sin is not always blatant about it. But no one can serve two masters. Our God is a jealous God and He will not compete. He will bring judgement.

So judgement came in response to Pharoh's hardened heart. "When God made this difference between the Israelites and the Egyptians, who would not have preferred the poorest cottage of an Israelite to the finest palace of an Egyptian? There is still a real difference, though not so discernible a one, between the house of the wicked, which is under a curse, and the habitation of the just, which is blessed.

'The LORD's curse is on the house of the wicked, but He blesses the home of the righteous.' 
Proverbs 3:33

We should believe in that difference, and govern ourselves accordingly." (M. Henry)

Father God, on more than one occasion in my lifetime I have seen you turn the proud over to their sin. You desire that our hearts be set on You and things above, not the idols and sin and filth this world has to offer. You will not stand for a divided heart. You will have Your way with or without the one bent on sin. For those who may be on the fence or those hiding in secret sin, I pray they would seek You. In Your strength, I pray they would hasten to turn away from the darkness and turn to a life pleasing to You, before You turn them over to the sinful desires of their heart. May they turn away from the darkness once and for all. Give them a deep desire to follow You. To any who have been turned over, who have realized the error of their ways, though it may seem impossible, show them the way out. In Jesus' name I pray, amen.