I cannot tell you how many times in the past ten years I have gone back to my parents and told them, “You were right”. I am very thankful that I have parents that love me and though they are not perfect (and neither am I) they have given me sound advice through the years. However, as a teenager, I would question their advice or rules. I would sometimes think to myself, “they don’t have a clue about what is going on” and that my own “wisdom” was far superior to what they gave me. I knew better than them, right?
That is the background setting for the Tower of Babel. After the Flood and as the earth had repopulated, the people came together and decided that they would build a city with a tower that would reach to the heavens. They desired to not be scattered, but wanted to bring everyone together in one place, with one goal, with one language and one vision. Maybe they thought that it would be safer if everyone stayed together or perhaps they were motivated by economic aspirations. What we do know is that they wanted to make a name for themselves. Why does all this matter? Because just a few chapters earlier in Genesis, God’s first command is, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it…” Instead of doing what God commanded, they believed that they had come up with a better plan. Instead of going out to fill the earth with people, they wanted to gather people in to fill their own desires. Instead of bringing glory to God with their obedience to His commands, they want to build a tower to the heavens to bring glory to themselves. Surely, they know better than God.
It seems that they had forgotten the Flood and the reason for it. God had promised to never flood the earth again, but that didn’t mean mankind wouldn’t turn to rebellion against God again. So what does God do? He gives them all a different language so that they cannot communicate with one another. They are forced to separate and go their own ways. Some critics of God may say that this is just God being “petty”, but it is actually a saving grace from God. As we read through the Bible, we run into entire nations that are hostile to God’s purposes. Sometimes an entire city will repent and turn back to God. Sometimes only individuals within those nations will repent and turn to God. But there are many examples of entire nations that stand against God and want to oppress or completely eradicate people who follow God. Can you imagine if there were only one giant city in the entire world? What would happen if most of the city rebelled against God? What would the masses do to those who desired to follow God if the majority hated and despised God? In other words, the people of Babel only had an idea of what they thought would be good, but not the understanding of the devastating consequences of that idea. As you make plans for your life, have you sought God through deep times of prayer and Bible study? He loves you and wants what is best for you, but His ways are not always our ways. Will you seek Him to see if your plans contradict His? Surely God knows best.
I hated going to sleep as a child. Of all the reasons, the one I hated the most was being in the dark. It was so difficult for me when my parents turned the lights out because of the unknown. There was something frightening about not being able to see and know what was going on around me. On top of that, I was sure that there was something underneath my bed that was going to jump out and get me! The one comforting thing for me though was that my door had a wide enough crack that I could see the light from the hallway. That light let me know that the darkness was not permanent and that morning would be coming soon.
As you read the book of Genesis you see that “darkness was over the face of the deep”. God is the perfect communicator because the Bible does not say that it was completely dark, just that “darkness was over the face of the deep.” As I read this passage, I am reminded that there has never been a time where there has been complete darkness. God has always been and His glory radiates light all around. Revelation 21:23 states, “And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.” Even at the beginning of the universe when all seemed formless and dark, God was over it all creating purpose and giving light. Why is it important to know this? Because as we read through the Bible, we see how the darkness of sin enters into creation and brings about destruction, devastation and ultimately death. And yet even in the darkest moments, God reveals that He has always been there as a light for all mankind, drawing them back to Him.
What is interesting is that as you read the book of John you see a similar introduction to that in Genesis. Just as Jesus was there in the beginning with the Father creating the world and giving light to mankind, He was also the “light shining in the darkness” of sin in the world when He became the “Word in flesh and dwelt among us.” In Genesis, our triune God gave man life and created him from the dust. In John, our triune God redeems mankind from sin and gives man new life and makes him a new creation.
Jesus was a willing sacrifice, and is a light in the darkness to anyone who turns from their sin and places faith in Him for their forgiveness. When we are living in the darkness of uncertainty, or hiding from others in the darkness and shame of our sin—LIGHT is still there! Fear is dispelled, Life is restored, and Hope is present when we go to the Light of the world! Run to the light who gives life…His name is Jesus!
As a child, no one had to teach me to lie. It just came natural, especially if I had done something wrong and knew I was going to get into trouble for it. People can influence us to sin in different ways, but ultimately no one has to be taught to sin because it is part of our fallen nature. We do, however, have to be taught how to live a life pleasing to God and how to live for Him. This might seem like an overwhelming task for a person to accomplish, but the Bible gives us great insight and hope that we are not alone in figuring this out.
Towards the end of Psalm 119 the author states, “My lips will pour forth praise, for you teach me your statutes.” Throughout the Bible, we consistently see God’s desire and willingness to teach His children what His word means and even promises His presence to help them live it out. What’s the catch? We must be in His word and whole-heartedly seek His face. The author continually proclaims at the end of Psalm 119 how much he loves God’s word and how precious it is to Him. The author could only proclaim that if he was actually spending time with God in His word. Are you struggling with a personal dilemma in your life and don’t know how to respond in a godly way? Are there difficult people that you don’t know how to deal with in your life? Are you struggling to figure out how to be pleasing to God? The good news is that you are not alone! “We can trust that those who have a relationship with Christ that God will teach us what the Bible means and even how to apply it in our lives. Have you opened your Bible today and truly taken time to seek the Lord?
Psalm 150 is one of my favorite passages in the Bible. The entire passage directs us to praise God. Though the Psalm is relatively short it contains many details as to where and how to worship God, as well as what to worship God with. But one thing that has stuck out to me in studying this passage is WHY God is to be worshipped. Verse 2 tells us to “praise Him according to His excellent greatness.” Did you catch that? We are to worship Him based upon how great He is! When we think of God’s greatness where do we even begin? He is perfectly holy with no sin. He is all-powerful, all-knowing, and fulfills His promises. He is just and will execute justice on those who have taken advantage of others. He is loving with a love that loved the world while it was still in rebellion against Him. God is full of grace, full of wisdom, full of mercy. He created all things by speaking them into existence. And this does not even begin to scratch the surface of just how truly great He is! But it doesn’t even stop there! The Bible then goes on to qualify God’s greatness by telling us that it is “excellent.” This means that not only is God great, but that His greatness is far superior to any other greatness we will ever come in contact with. So if we are to worship Him according to His excellent greatness, what does this mean?
To make this clearer, sometimes it is easier to clarify by taking the question from the negative aspect–meaning what should it not be. I would argue that at times instead of praising God according to His excellent greatness, we praise Him according to other factors. We praise Him based upon our personal preferences. For instance, there are times when a church gathers corporately to worship and a song is played in order to create an opportunity for everyone to sing to God. However, because of personal preferences some will opt out. Not because the song is unbiblical (which some hymns and praise songs are), but because the beat is wrong, the instruments are wrong, it is played differently than what you are used to. In fact, I have known people to skip corporate singing altogether because of their personal preferences. Now, I am not pointing a finger and accusing, because I have my own personal preferences that I struggle against. However, what does any of that have to do with praising God according to His excellent greatness? Sometimes we do not praise God because we have had a difficult week and it seems as if everything is falling apart in my life. What does that have to do with praising God according to His excellent greatness? Sometimes we are treated poorly by others and we sulk in our misery or we stew in our anger over what has happened. Remember, David was treated unjustly many times by others and yet he never stopped praising God according to His excellent greatness. I would say too many times we are guilty of hijacking praise that is meant only for God, instead withholding it because we have made it conditional based upon us. Let us not praise God conditionally, but repent and have a renewed sense of God’s awesomeness. Let us praise Him always for His excellent greatness!
Vengeance never solves anything and only makes the matter worse. That is true every single time. However, when we have been wronged, even if we don’t get revenge, that still doesn’t mean that we do not feel a sense that we would like to get even with the person. What are we to do with these feelings that we have towards those who have wronged us? In Psalm 140, David is pleading with God to save him because he is surrounded by enemies and is powerless. His enemies seem to have the upper hand and look to overwhelm him, but David turns to God who is all powerful and is his true salvation. God has always been his savior in the past and David believes that He will be his savior in the present. However, in verse 10, we see just how angry David is because he proclaims something that seems shocking to Christian ears. He states, “Let burning coals fall upon them! Let them be cast into fire, into miry pits, no more to rise!” It sounds shocking to us that someone who follows God should even utter such a thing, yet let’s look at something in the Psalm for the moment. Throughout the entire Psalm, David looks to God to fulfill his salvation and to provide him with justice. David is looking for God to do justice, not for himself to take vengeance. He leaves it in God’s hands.
So what can we learn from the Bible about David’s Psalm about these feelings that we have towards others when they have wronged us? The first thing is to tell God how we feel and hold nothing back from Him. The Bible shows us that David had an intimate prayer life and worship life with God that did not shy away from what he was feeling or going through. I believe God desires that same intimacy with us also and wants us to share how we truly feel. (By the way, I believe if we started to be this blunt with God in prayer instead of “praying” these things to Facebook and Twitter that we would actually see God’s hand at work fixing relationships). The second point is that as we share with God how we truly feel, we ultimately entrust the situation to God and his faithful direction and not to our emotional reaction. There were times when David could have killed Saul, but he did not act on that impulse, but entrusted himself to God. In the end, God dealt with Saul in His time and David became king. When we entrust the situation to God and wait upon Him, we find out that He will give us the wisdom to act, but more importantly we see how He is already at work in the situation. The third point is found in the words of Jesus when He tells us to love and pray for our enemies. Jesus said, “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Why should we love and pray for our enemies? Because the Bible tells us that at one time we were enemies of God, but instead of destroying us, He sent Jesus who willingly came to die for us. His death and resurrection brought about our forgiveness for those who place faith in Jesus and we are no longer considered enemies, but children of the Most High God. We love our enemies because Christ loved us first, and we pray for our enemies because no one is beyond the power of God’s redemptive change. If you are harboring feelings of vengeance and unforgiveness towards those who have wronged you, lay that at Jesus’ feet today.
Everyday we have some type of plan or goal that we would like to accomplish. It might be work related, home related or even just personal goals, but we all have things that we want to get accomplished. The question is how do you go about getting that thing accomplished? Sometimes we believe that in order to get our task list finished we have to keep our nose to the grindstone and not quit. I am not saying that hard work should not be involved because it is biblical and absolutely should. However, hard work alone will never accomplish everything you are trying to accomplish. In Psalm 127:1 the Bible gives us insight in stating, “unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” Did you catch that? If God doesn’t do it, it doesn’t matter how much hard work and toil I give, it will be in vain. Psalm 127 gives us wisdom that I am not God. I cannot do everything that I want. No matter how hard I try or have the best laid plans, if I have not dedicated what I do to the Lord, it will never get accomplished in the way it needs to be. In the meantime I am tired, exhausted, frustrated and strive to “work harder” only to be disappointed later. Even worse, if God is not behind what I am doing than it is truly pointless! Even if I accomplish my goals, the Bible states that it will be in vain and worthless.
A couple of things to think about: Is what I am trying to accomplish glorifying to God? Instead of justifying why God should bless my work I need to ask is it something I need to be doing in the first place. Another thing is how much glory will God receive out of what I am doing? Many time Christians do things and ultimately the only glory to be received is for themselves. I know people don’t start out with that mindset to only glorify themselves, but ultimately that is what happens. I remember talking with an individual that was worn out and frustrated with a task they were trying to accomplish. In the midst of the conversation I casually asked where God fit into the equation. They started out by telling me theological truths, but as they kept talking they realized that everything they were trying to accomplish was under their own strength and if it happened to get finished that all glory would be pointed to them. We prayed and they left. A few weeks later when we talked they related something interesting. They had decided to give it to God and let Him handle it. When they had prayed and given it to God, the project had started to go much smoother, they were less tired and frustrated and as the task was accomplished other people began to ask what happened changed to make the task go smoother. That opened up the doors for this person to tell of how God had been at work and an opportunity to share Jesus. Are you wearing yourself out by your constant toil? Do you think hard work alone is going to accomplish your goals? If God is not in it, then it will all be in vain. Why don’t you bring your plans to God right now and let Him lead you with what you need to do with them. Let the Lord build your house, so you won’t labor in vain!
“Who is like the Lord our God”? Verse 5 of this Psalm asks this question so that people will not only ponder just how great and amazing God is, but will also joyfully and unabashedly sing and proclaim His greatness. So this begs the question, what makes our God so great? Let’s look at just some of His characteristics: God is holy and perfect in all His ways. God is just and impartial and will judge every person for their motives, deeds, and actions. God is all-knowing and can proclaim what the end of time will be from the very beginning. God is all-powerful to create and destroy all things with a word. God is merciful and is slow to bring wrath towards mankind’s sins. God desires that we respond to Him by faith in love and not by actions alone, trying to earn His love. A person comparing the God of the Bible to other gods might find some similarities, but there is no god like the God of the Bible.
And of all the things that makes God so unique is how He loves people. Verses 7-9 state that a main reason why we should praise Him is for this very fact: He loves those who the rest of the world thinks are less than. Many times our human nature is to discount people that society considers “beneath us.” But Jesus tells us in Matthew 25 that when we choose to love and care for those that society looks down on that we are ultimately serving Jesus Himself. If we truly think about it, all of us are “beneath” God, and He should discount us for our sheer pride and sinfulness. Yet God shows us an amazing love by ultimately dying to pay for our sins when we were still in complete rebellion towards Him. Instead, He looked upon on us and chose to pour out His amazing grace and love towards us. That is the reason why we as Christians can love- because He first loved us (1 John 4). When you truly think about just how amazing and awesome God is we should do nothing but praise His name and tell others of how amazing He truly is- all because He loves a sinner such as me!
A follower of God cannot remain silent about their faith. In Psalm 96, the author tells everyone to sing, declare, and proclaim God’s magnificence all over the world. When we are silent about our faith, we are being silent about the most important relationship in our life. If you have a healthy marriage, you would not hide the fact that you are married. It raises red flags when someone is hiding the fact that they are married. If you have children that you are proud of, would you fail to talk about them when others bring up their children in conversation? Can a proud grandparent remain silent about their grandkids? When we have healthy relationships, we cannot help but bring up those people in our lives and talk about them with others. When we have a healthy relationship with God, this is the same exact thing. We cannot do anything but share with others just how amazing God is. If we are not sharing, why is that? I believe it is because we have forgotten just how amazing God is and how much He has really done for us. In a way, we have an unhealthy relationship with God when we have gone silent about Him when others are around and we do not share. So what do we need to remember about God that makes Him so worthy that we should share Him? Psalm 96 gives us some insight.
First, we are told to “tell of His salvation” to others. What is His salvation? God chooses to approach us while we were His enemies and restore our relationship to Him to that of becoming His children. I do not know of any other religion that has a god that is this loving and personal towards those who intially hated Him. In every other religion, a person must work or perform in order to be accepted by the deity, let alone loved. This, however, is not the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible chooses to rescue people while they stand against Him and change their hearts by His love. When we see how miserably we fail in our sinfulness against God and yet see how greatly He loves us, we should be overwhelmed by that love and want to proclaim it everywhere just how amazing His love is for me and for people everywhere.
Second, we need to stop and look at the world around us and acknowledge God and His magnificient works. Have you stopped to take in a sunset lately? Have you taken a moment when you come home at night and just taken a few minutes to observe the stars? Have you picked a flower and just stopped to study it in all its beauty and intricacies? Most of us are too busy and just keep staring straight ahead in order to check off the next thing in our long list of busyness that we need to accomplish. However, when we stop and just start to observe and ponder the world around us, we become overwhelmed in just how amazing the world is. How did any of this come into being? Why does the beauty of this world sometimes cause me to catch my breath when I actually stop and take the time to look? It causes me to think and ultimately realize that this all didn’t just happen. God created all of this and created it out of nothing! How awesome!
Third, this Psalm points to God’s salvation and love but also to His judgment. In verse 10, it tells us that we should “Say among the nations…God will judge the world with equity.” This means that God will not play favorites, but will judge everyone according to the same standard. The standard of God is perfection. I am created by God to be perfect and to have a relationship with Him in that perfection, and yet I know that I do not. I have attitudes, actions, and words that I have used to hurt and harm others and ultimately blaspheme against God Himself. We do not like to talk about God’s judgment in modern society, but God will judge people according to His standard…and His punishment is eternal torment for those who are found guilty.
There are times when we look at other people’s lives and we are tempted to envy them. The Psalmist tells us as much in verses two and three when he states that he “almost stumbles” because “I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” Why is envy a sin, and why is it so dangerous? There are many reasons, but I would like to share three biblical ones with you.
Reason one is that we envy people because we think they don’t deserve something but that we do. Envy is dangerous because it puts us in the judgment seat that only God can rightly occupy. Think about this…when I envy someone because of something they have received (finances, recognition), I am making the evaluation that they are not good enough, but I am. Remember how the disciples argued among themselves about who was the greatest? Who would have the seat of honor on the right and left of Jesus? Each of the disciples believed that somehow they had done more than the others, and for anyone to receive honor but them was a horrible mistake. We are not meant to be in the judgment seat of what people should or should not get. That seat is reserved only for God. When we try to sit in that seat, it is idolatry and blasphemy.
Reason two is that envy is destructive because we believe its lie that the “great reward” is found here on this earth. When we start to believe that lie, we forget that we were not made for the temporal but for eternity. Why should it matter if someone gets the promotion over me? Why should it matter that someone has gained financially when I haven’t? Why should it matter that someone has a bigger and better house than me? When we focus back on who God is, His faithfulness, His love for us, His promise to be our Provider for all of our needs, we are able to remember that the best is yet to come for me. Why do I want to trade a few years of things on this earth for that which will never fade or end? Now the question might be, but what about injustices that are done to others? The Bible clearly commands that we seek justice for people, but justice is not personal. It is a standard that everyone is equal and has worth. Justice is concerned with everyone being treated fairly. Envy is concerned solely with me.
Reason three is that we need to remember that God does not think or act like we think or act. We want good people to get blessings and bad people to be punished. There is only one problem with that…the Bible tells us that no one is good. If we are going to apply that standard to everyone equally, God should wipe us all out immediately. But the Bible gives us insight into God’s heart. Why does He allow some to prosper that shouldn’t? Why do some people seem to be blessed even though they seem to mock God with their lives? Because God loves and is patient with people. 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” No one gets away with anything. God will judge everyone in the end. However, this verse reminds us that He is patient and that He may be allowing the person to receive what seems like “blessings,” to experience just how worthless and unfulfilling these things are, which can cause them to despair and turn to God. If you are envying someone, it means you care more about your earthly life than you care about what God is doing in their lives. You care more about the temporal instead of the eternal. Are you envious of others right now, or are you fulfilled and satisfied in Jesus? Why don’t you repent of your envy and turn to Christ to be your fulfillment right now? Turn your eyes upon Him! HE is your very great reward!
When my daughter was little she did not like dogs. That is to say, she did not like dogs who were hyper and would jump on her. Because she was so small, almost every dog would play with her so rough that they would inadvertently scratch her or knock her down, not because they were mean, but because they were so big and energetic. Every time that she would see a dog, she would quickly run to me and either hide behind me or beg me to pick her up into my arms and hold her. My daughter ran to me for two reasons: 1. She knew I would protect her and 2. I would gently but firmly get the dog under control so as to not be a threat to her. When my daughter focused on the dog, she would be afraid and could think about nothing but being scratched and jumped on. However, when she ran to stand behind me or to climb up into my arms, she believed herself not only to be safe, but also that the dog was not a threat as long as she was with me. My daughter thought I was a superhero and at times would tell others that I had protected her because I loved her.
In Psalm 46, we have this beautiful imagery of God being our very protection and strength. The passage even goes to the extreme in stating that even if the whole earth were coming apart at the seams that the author has nothing to fear because God’s power is more powerful than the most severe of calamities that we could ever dream of. In fact, one of my favorite sections of Scripture is found in verses six and seven. Here we see that kingdoms are at war, rising and falling with power, and that the battle seems to be raging with no end in sight. How does God stop the madness? He speaks and the “earth melts.” Just think about this for a moment. How did God create the universe? Did he pull out various materials and start to hammer away? No. He spoke and that which did not exist all of a sudden burst forth with life! What could God do to end all of battles and strife that occur? He doesn’t only have the power to force armies to lay down their weapons. He has the power to make the world cease to exist by only uttering a word! I am not saying that is what God will do, but what I am saying is that we forget just how powerful God is and just how powerless people and circumstances are compared to Him.
This is why He tells us to find our strength and refuge in Him. There are many situations in our life that we find overwhelming and to an extent, those situations are overwhelming to us…but not to God. God desires for us to run to Him and to trust Him to be our fortress. As our “Abba, Father” He has given us permission to confidently climb into His loving and protective arms and know that nothing is more powerful than Him. It does not mean that I won’t suffer, but what it reminds me is that when I suffer, my all-loving Father has a purpose for what I am going through and that purpose will be for my benefit and ultimately for His glory. He tells me in these overwhelming circumstances to run to Him and find my safety and strength in my relationship with Him. Are there overwhelming situations in your life in which you need to be reminded that God is much more powerful? Just as my child ran to me when she faced something overwhelmingly scary, you can run to God and find comfort in His arms.