Genesis 35 – WHAT WOULD THEY SAY?

Posted: December 9, 2018 in Uncategorized
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Genesis 35 – WHAT WOULD THEY SAY? 

Too many voices © Image created by Ross Cochrane

The previous chapter, Genesis 34, reads like a Newspaper article on child abuse, terrorism and human trafficking. 

A local prince of Shechem, whose name is also Shechem, seizes Dinah, the young daughter of Jacob, and rapes her. Jacob does nothing but when Jacob’s sons discover what has happened, Simeon and Levi, who were Dinah’s full brothers, take their swords and enter the town and slaughter not only Shechem, but every male. Meanwhile, the rest of Jacob’s sons take all their little children and wives and lead them away as captives. They also plunder the town – everything they can lay their hands on.  

I wonder what would Jacob think and feel about all this? 

THE VOICES OF JACOB 

Jacob: Sometimes the image of who I am created to be is blurred by my unhealthy responses to God. “Who am I?” “What am I doing?” “How did all this happen?”  

There are all these voices in my head that I keep replaying over and over again and they lead me around in circles.  

I hear the voices of my parents, Isaac and Rebekah. My Dad wasn’t a terribly good father, favouring Esau above me. I was influenced by my Mum to succeed in life but in all the wrong ways. I keep hearing Laban’s voice, my Father-in-law, and it is always so abrupt. Esau’s voice in my mind is always revengeful and bitter. Leah’s voice is grief-stricken by what has happened to our daughter. Who do I listen to? 

WHAT WOULD LABAN SAY? (Jacob’s father-in-law) 

You shouldn’t have left me, Jacob. You wouldn’t find yourself in this mess if only you had stayed. But I must admit, going to Shechem was a good choice. Lots of trade. Sure, they are an idolatrous lot, but you made a lot of money in trade. You had to look after your family and household and sometimes that means making deals. Too bad it has turned out so badly. They’ll never trade with you again. You should have stayed with me for another 7 years. 

Jacob: When I had to run from Esau, I worked with you for 20 years. I have allowed your pagan idolatry and Shechem’s perverted morality to infiltrate my household and I have done nothing about it? My sons, your grandsons, have committed a terrible criminal act. 

WHAT WOULD ESAU SAY? (Jacob’s brother) 

Be honest, Jacob. You stayed near Shechem because that’s the kind of people you want to mix with; deceitful and manipulative, wicked and morally corrupt.  

You’re a loser, Jacob. You have failed. You’re just a Mommy’s boy, pushed around by her and others all your life, afraid to step out and make your own decisions.  

Just look at your life. You got caught in the trap of living up to the expectations of our Mother, Rebekah, then Laban, and then bowing to every whim of your wives, Rachel and Leah. You have been play-acting, pretending and manipulating. No-one knows who you really are. You have no real, intimate, honest relationships with anyone, especially your own family.  

You shouldn’t have stolen my birthright, brother. Now your daughter is traumatised and your sons have committed murder, plunder and human trafficking. Where were you? What response have you made? You’re a coward. I should have killed you myself. 

You fled to Bethel once from me. Now you have to flee from the revenge of people in the towns near Shechem. You are not all that popular anymore, Jacob.  

If I were God, I would leave you to face the wrath of the residents of the surrounding towns. It would save me the trouble. 

WHAT WOULD ISAAC SAY? (Jacob’s Dad) 

I knew something like this would happen. Now, you are anxious over the debts you have incurred from the crisis for which you have caused, unable to fulfil your real potential in life. That’s why Esau was my choice. 

I knew you couldn’t handle the birthright, Jacob. Esau could have done it better. God gave you the promise He has given to all our family since Abraham. He should have given it to Esau. You’ve made a mess of it.  

You have experienced various traumas in your life, Jacob, some avoidable and others not, and you have not coped well. You have manipulated others, including me, but now you are beaten, without purpose, unable to move, playing the “if only” game. If only my sons hadn’t murdered the men of Shechem, we could have lived here peacefully.  

I’m sorry to say this, son, but Esau is right. You have been acting like a loser. Losers  don’t pursue their God-given destiny. You’ve been waiting in an unhealthy place hoping for some kind of a miracle but God is waiting for you to take some initiative and obey Him. You’ve finally deceived yourself. 

WHAT WOULD REBEKAH SAY? (Jacob’s mother) 

Leave him alone! We’ve all been involved in deceiving others and ourselves. It seems to me that God sees something in his heart that you don’t see and that even he doesn’t see yet. So, there’s hope. 

Don’t listen to them, Jacob. Listen to me. You’ve always been my favourite. Come on Jacob. What are you doing? Run! Protect yourself. Move!  

Jacob: You think I need to run?  

WHAT WOULD LEVI AND SIMEON SAY? (Two of Jacob’s sons) 

Yes, run, Father. It’s better than what you have been doing: wasting your time, not learning from your past, fearful of your future, and uninvolved in your household. Frankly, you have been irresponsible, placing our family in environments of danger. If it wasn’t for us, you would have let that wicked Paedophile, Shechem, get away with raping our sister and all their morally corrupt men to violate all our women. You are more concerned about business and trade than about us. 

WHAT WOULD LEAH SAY? (One of Jacob’s wives) 

They are right Jacob! How could you be so unloving to your own daughter, wives and sons, hiding behind your mask and disappearing when we needed you the most. You lack confidence in God and yourself. You’re helpless, hopeless, blaming others, lacking in dignity and respect from your father Isaac and my Father, Laban, and from your brother Esau, your cousins and now your whole household.  

Why did you make us stay in Shechem? Why is it only now you want to leave? Because of your reputation? It’s obviously not because of what has happened to Dinah. If only we had moved to Bethel in the first place, but now it’s too late to change the damage that has been done.  

Jacob: I didn’t think that … 

Leah: That’s the trouble, Jacob. You didn’t think. Did you think that God would intervene although you made decisions that don’t reflect His will for your life? You didn’t take action to protect your daughter, so our sons did. And now you are in grief and shame.  

Jacob: I know. That was my choice and I was wrong. 

Leah: You need more than mere repentance for all that has transpired for your negligence and silence. Your deceitful behaviour and your dysfunctional fathering and attitudes are appalling.  

Your actions have brought judgment upon us. I’m ashamed of you. 

Jacob: I know I have failed you, Leah. Do you really think this is a judgement of God? 

WHAT IS GOD SAYING? 

There is no judgment upon you from Me. You created your own judgment, enough for any lifetime, by coming out from the umbrella of My grace and playing with a wicked city.  

Jacob, you were born to succeed in life. You have been shaped to be a leader and patriarch, someone to be respected, living an authentic faith life, trustworthy and stable, responsive to Me and to your family. 

Genesis 35:1 (NLT) Jacob, “Get ready and move to Bethel and settle there. Build an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother, Esau.” Now I am commanding you to get up and get going to where you were intended to go in the first place.  

Jacob: It seems that I have been running away from You all my life, Lord, rather than running to You, but now I am trying to listen to Your still, small voice. Thank You that You are still there, speaking to me among the other voices screaming at me. I am amazed that Your voice has remained faithful and gracious, not judging and demanding, inviting me to enter into the life for which I was created.  

Now it has come to this. You have to command me again to go, and do what I should have done years ago by my own free will. 

I built an altar to You at Shechem but now unfortunately, it will only be a reminder to the townships in the area of the most atrocious criminal acts. I am so sorry, Lord, that it will not only be associated with me but now also with You.   

God:  There’s nothing you can do about the past but to accept the responsibility for your actions or lack thereof, repent, and accept the consequences. I have said in Joel 2:13 says, “Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead. Return to Me, the Lord your God, for I am merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. I am eager to relent and not punish.”  

Jacob: I am afraid, Lord. The people from the towns will bring their revenge on me. 

God: Don’t miss the point, Jacob. Lot moved too close to Sodom (Genesis 19). You moved too close to Shechem. Lot had to move or die. You have to move or die. 

You can’t change what has happened or how people respond to it. Building an altar in Bethel will bring you back to fulfilling and honouring Me. Let your life from this point on begin to bring closure to the past and hope for the future.  

In 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NLT2) I have written, “… if My people who are called by My Name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.”  

WHAT WILL YOU SAY? 

Where have you settled? What voices haunt you from your past and stymy you from your God-given destiny? The invitation of Genesis 35 is not to listen to the voices of the past or present that thwart your progress and place you and others in jeopardy but to listen to what God is saying above the shouting and abuse in your own head. 

Jesus Christ has paid the penalty for your sins and mine and offers us forgiveness and a relationship with Him. In John 10:27-30 (NLT) Jesus says “My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from Me, for my Father has given them to Me, and He is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”

Acts 16:31 (NLT) says, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.”  

Pastor Ross 

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The Questions of Discipline © Image created by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 6 – 10 WAYS TO KNOW IF I AM EXPERIENCING GOD’S DISCIPLINE? – Discipline Part 2

A car accident changed his life. He is in a wheelchair and believes that God is angry at him. Is his accident really GOD’S DISCIPLINE? 

Another woman who lost her husband feels that God is VERY SEVERE.

In Psalm 6, David believes that he is being disciplined by God.

O Lord, don’t REBUKE ME in Your anger or DISCIPLINE ME in Your rage. Have compassion on me, Lord, for I am weak. Heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony. I am sick at heart. How long, O Lord, until you restore me?

DISCIPLINE?

  • Have you ever prayed for healing and not received it?
  • Do you feel that God is displeased with you and rebuking you for your sinfulness?
  • Do you believe that the Lord is angry with you and “taking you to the woodshed for a spanking with the razor strap?”
  • Does the Lord yell at you and discipline you in a rage?

King David is afraid that God is doing just that. His Psalm doesn’t go into details, but it is clear that he thinks that God is disciplining him. And he is upset, humbled and broken. He’s in anguish about his circumstances. He’s more concerned for inward peace than even outward healing, though, it seems, he needs both.

And that’s what leads me to ask this question…

HOW DO I KNOW WHEN IT IS GOD WHO IS DISCIPLINING ME AND WHEN HE IS NOT?

Fortunately, the Bible gives me some guidelines and they are not necessarily what you expect. They have much more to do with the results of discipline than to the discipline itself. Here are 10 ways to know if what you face is the discipline of God.

The first way has to do with God being a God of Truth …

  1. AM I PROMPTED TO PAY MORE ATTENTION TO GOD’S WORD?

Psalms 119:67,71 (NLT2) says “I used to wander off until You DISCIPLINED me; but now I CLOSELY FOLLOW YOUR WORD… My SUFFERING was good for me, for it taught me TO PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR DECREES.” 

In fact, God’s Word itself disciplines us. 2 Timothy 3:16 (NLT) says “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to MAKE US REALIZE WHAT IS WRONG IN OUR LIVES. IT CORRECTS US WHEN WE ARE WRONG and teaches us to do what is right.”

So difficult things that happen in our lives can lead us back into the Bible and what God has to say for our lives.

God’s Word always brings correction and direction for our lives, and perspective on how we can respond to what happens in the world and to us personally.

Sin triggers discipline. So the 2nd way to know if you are being disciplined by God has to do with the righteousness and justice of God… 

2. AM I PROMPTED TO ADMIT WHEN I GET THINGS WRONG?

1 John 1:8-10 (Msg) says …

“If we claim that we’re free of sin, we’re only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. On the other hand, if we ADMIT OUR SINS—… He won’t let us down; He’ll be true to Himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. If we claim that we’ve never sinned, we out-and-out contradict God—make a liar out of Him. A claim like that only shows off our ignorance of God.”

The key thing to remember is that when I deserved God’s discipline, Jesus suffered for me on the Cross and died to pay the price for my sin.

This brings me to admit when I get things wrong and ask God for the forgiveness that was purchased for me on the Cross.

That leads us to the third question to help you know if you are facing the discipline of God. It has to do with responding to God’s righteousness …

3. AM I PROMPTED TO PLEASE HIM AS MY HEAVENLY FATHER?

Hebrews 12:6 (NLT) says, “For the Lord disciplines those He loves, and He punishes each one He accepts as His child.”

Revelation 3:19 (NLT) says, “I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference.”

If I am loved by God as His child, apparently, there will be times of discipline.

Some parents today do discipline badly, but not God. God never abuses His children, and so His discipline will draw me closer to Him, not drive me away. 

I will not find myself saying, “Whatever” with teenage indifference to a parental instruction, but I will find myself delighting in pleasing Him as I respond willingly to His correction. My response will be prompted by my relationship to Him as my Father, someone I respect and love.

The 4th way to know if it is God who is disciplining me has to do with being prompted to recognise that God is omnipotent and sovereign and I need His help…

  1. AM I PROMPTED TO RECOGNISE THAT ONLY GOD CAN HEAL ME?

Psalm 6:2 (NLT) says, “Have compassion on me, Lord, for I am weak. Heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony.

The requests of David’s prayer indicate he feels the consequences of his sin and of God’s displeasure at him. He is distressed and depressed. Helpless and hopeless.

He doesn’t resist or reject God’s discipline or despise God for it. He recognises that only God can heal him on the inside and on the outside.

The 5th principle has to do with responding to God’s unfailing love…

  1. AM I PROMPTED TO BE RESTORED TO HIM?

Psalm 6:3-4 (NLT) says, “I am sick at heart. How long, O Lord, until You restore me? Return, O Lord, and rescue me. Save me because of Your unfailing love.”

Psalm 6:6 (NLT) says, I am worn out from sobbing. All night I flood my bed with weeping, drenching it with my tears.

I mourn for something inside me which struggles and sometimes wants to give up and I am so tired of struggling and being defeated. Ever felt like this? I have.

Sin always clouds who I am in Christ and I need You to restore me to health on the inside. Distress, emotional anguish and depression over a period of time make me cry out “How long, O Lord?” How do you pray when you can’t cope?

David is so honest. He questions and wrangles with God as he cries out in pain and anguish. God even invites us to ask for answers.

James 1:5-8 (NLT) says, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask Him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.”

Lord, sometimes You seem so far away. I pray that Your presence would be apparent in my life today and that You would actively intervene in my situation because I am continually in need of rescuing. Thankyou Lord for Your unfailing love that has saved me and continues to save me.

David is not impressed with the painful state that his life is in and wants the Lord to extricate him. It seems he even fears for his life and so the 6th way to tell whether or not I am being disciplined has to do with responding to who God is…

  1. AM I PROMPTED TO WORSHIP HIM?

Psalm 6:5 (NLT) says, For the dead do not remember You. Who can praise You from the grave?

The Message Bible says, I’m no good to You dead, am I? I can’t sing in your choir if I’m buried in some tomb!

1 Corinthians 11:31-32 speaks about Christians participating in the remembrance meal in the wrong way and says some have been judged for doing so and some have even died as a result of their sin, … But if we would examine ourselves, we would not be judged by God in this way. Yet when we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned along with the world.”

David still had work to do. He wants to live and continue to make a difference as his life on earth gives praise to God. He is examining himself before God.

If I serve a righteous, holy and just God, then God’s discipline will also lead me to ask …

  1. AM I PROMPTED TO STAND AGAINST EVIL?

Psalm 6:7-8 (NLT) says, “My vision is blurred by grief; my eyes are worn out because of all my enemies. Go away, all you who do evil, for the Lord has heard my weeping.”

My vision is blurred by grief at wasting my life. It seems sometimes that life conspires against me and I am surrounded by defeat instead of victory. Today I actively refuse evil ways and pursue Your ways, Lord. Thanks for listening to my heart.

God is immutable (unchanging and faithful to His character) and if God disciplines me then I can expect to ask…

  1. AM I PROMPTED TO DECLARE MY CONFIDENCE AND TRUST IN GOD?

Psalm 6:9 (NLT) says, The Lord has heard my plea; the Lord will answer my prayer.

Thank You for hearing my deepest cries. I trust You, Lord. I know You answer my prayers.

God is eternal and wants us all to share in His life. Does God’s discipline make me more passionate for the gospel?

  1. AM I PROMPTED TO DESIRE THAT THOSE DON’T KNOW THE LORD WILL BE CONVERTED?

Psalm 6:10 (NLT) says, May all my enemies be disgraced and terrified. May they suddenly TURN BACK in shame.

The Hebrew word for “Turn back” is the word that means to recover, restore, convert or revive. Is David praying for their repentance and conversion?

In Psalm 51:13 David says, Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and make me willing to obey You. THEN I WILL TEACH YOUR WAYS TO REBELS, AND THEY WILL RETURN TO YOU.”

May the things that conspire against all that I am created to be today be thwarted and run for cover and find none. May shame not be present in my life today as I serve You, Lord. May those who conspire against You be disciplined, not so they will suffer, but so that they too can find their way back to You.

God’s discipline is not purposeless and so a final question,

  1. AM I PROMPTED TO FIND SOMETHING GOOD WHICH COMES FROM EVERYTHING FACE IN LIFE?

What I do know is that Romans 8:27-29 (NLT) says, “… GOD CAUSES EVERYTHING TO WORK TOGETHER FOR THE GOOD of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.” 

Notice this is not saying everything is good but God CAUSES everything to work together for good to those who love Him. The Christ-followers to whom this was written were experiencing persecution. God turns cursing to blessing.

When Jesus went to the Cross it was certainly not a good thing. But God caused everything to work together for good so that we could be saved.

By the way, I don’t believe that all the accidents, catastrophes, sickness and terrorism and droughts and floods and earthquakes and bad things that happen to good people are God’s discipline, any more than I believe old age is God’s discipline.

These things are all part of the world we live in and yes, God allows them.

Nevertheless, God can use what is already part of our lives for His good purposes, both good and bad things, and they can also serve to keep us trusting in Him. 

What I like about David is that he is honest with God. He realises that difficult times have a purpose and bring us to our knees with the kind of honesty that is disturbing to anyone else but God. 

God wants you and me to be transparently honest with Him.

HOW WILL I KNOW IF IT IS GOD WHO IS DISCIPLINING ME? I will be prompted to pay more attention to God’s word, to please Him as my Heavenly Father, to admit when you get things wrong, to recognise that only God can heal me, to be restored to Him, to worship him, to stand against evil, to desire that even those who don’t know the lord will be converted, to declare my confidence in God, to find something good which comes from everything we face in life.

God bless you.

Pastor Ross 

Going too far © Image created by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 6 – GOING TOO FAR WITH GOD – Part 1 

I’ve got to admit my Western mindset doesn’t like to talk about God’s discipline. But God’s word indicates that God does discipline us, both those who are Believers and those who are not, but He does so with JUSTICE AND FAIRNESS and in order to get us back into relationship with Him and in tune with our destiny.  

IF THE LORD DOES DISCIPLINE YOU, HOW DOES HE DISCIPLINE YOU? 

  • Does He humiliate you by putting you in situations where you will fail? 
  • Does the Lord discipline you through accidents, sickness, pain, old age? 
  • Through natural disasters – fires, floods, drought or other catastrophes? 
  • Through losing your livelihood or your mental health, like Nebuchadnezzar who lost his mind for a time? 
  • Does God discipline you through losing those you love? 
  • Through satanic attack like Job? 

If the Lord has UNFAILING LOVE, how can He also be FAIR AND JUST in His discipline? 

R.B.Thieme writes “What righteousness demands, justice executes, and because God never violates His integrity, all actions He takes toward us (in terms of discipline) come from His justice. Justice can either bless or discipline; if righteousness approves, justice blesses; if righteousness disapproves, justice curses or disciplines.”   

WHY DOES GOD DISCIPLINE ME? 

If the Lord disciplines me as David says, what prompts Him to discipline me?  

Well, obviously, it has to do with my sin. Now there’s another word that people don’t like to hear and I don’t like to talk about.  

One man I spoke to said, “I don’t sin.” He lives in a world that prefers to deny the very existence of sin. His unforgivable sin is refusing to even consider a relationship with God or any claim God has in his life.  

Discipline may involve pain and suffering which always leaves me with a lot of questions as to how God dishes His discipline out. 

Some examples in the Bible indicate that those who are originally created in His image can go too far, and the patience and grace of God is rejected by people who prefer to come under severe discipline rather than consider repentance and forgiveness. 

SEVERE DISCIPLINE 

WAR  

During WW1 many people thought that it was the END OF THE WORLD – that God was bringing His FINAL JUDGEMENT – God’s discipline to humankind. It is easy to see why they would think that way given the horrors of the world war and the ravages of the Spanish flu in its aftermath. WAR AND PESTILENCE! 

People in the World War years knew their Bibles a little better than people today. They knew that occasionally God exercises severe discipline in the Bible on EXTREMELY WICKED NATIONS by having them defeated completely. Israel at one stage becomes His instrument of discipline, not that Israel is all that good. Just so they don’t become arrogant ….   

Deuteronomy 9:5 (NLT) says, “It is not because YOU ARE SO GOOD or have such integrity that you are about to occupy their land. The Lord your God will drive these nations out ahead of you only because of THEIR WICKEDNESS, and to fulfill the oath He swore to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”  

Many people died as a result of the Lord’s severe discipline.  

PLAGUE 

Israel was disciplined too on a number of occasions also for their wickedness, once WITH A PLAGUE that killed many people.   

2 Samuel 24:14-16 (NLT) says, “So the Lord sent a plague upon Israel that morning, and it lasted for three days. A total of 70,000 people died throughout the nation, from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south. But as the angel was preparing to destroy Jerusalem, the Lord relented and said to the death angel, “Stop! That is enough!””  

It appears that some sinful people got away with it with their lives still intact while many others died because of God’s discipline. God’s discipline can seem so severe to me. I don’t pretend to understand, but I trust that God knows what He is doing. 

EXILE 

Jeremiah 46:28 (NLT2) says ISRAEL WAS EXILED BECAUSE OF GOD’S DISCIPLINE, “Do not be afraid, … for I am with you,” says the Lord. “… I HAVE EXILED YOU, but I will not completely destroy you. I WILL DISCIPLINE YOU, but WITH JUSTICE; I cannot let you go unpunished.”” (The Message Bible says, “But I won’t finish you off. I have more work left to do on you. I’ll punish you, but fairly. No, I’m not finished with you yet.”)   

So the emphasis of God’s discipline is that it is absolutely fair, not according to our standards, because those standards are so fluid, but His, which are unchangeable. God is Immutable.  
 

NEW COVENANT?  

Some say, “That was the OLD TESTAMENT. We are under the New Covenant and God does not discipline us like this.” Let’s not be too fast in saying this. 

Hebrews 12:6 (NLT) says, “For the Lord DISCIPLINES THOSE HE LOVES, and He punishes each one He accepts as His child.”  

Revelation 3:19 (NLT) says, “I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference.” If I am loved by God, apparently, I must also accept His discipline. 

THORNS 

In the New Testament Paul talks personally about how God disciplined him. 

2 Corinthians 12:7 (NLT) says, “… So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given A THORN IN MY FLESH, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.” I wonder if that thorn in the flesh was a person rather than a sickness. 

DEATH 

Acts 5:1-10 (NLT) speaks about Ananias who was disciplined by God, in the early Church, who, with his wife, Sapphira, sold some property. He brought part of the money to the apostles, claiming it was the full amount. With his wife’s consent, he kept the rest.  

Then Peter said, “Ananias, why have you let Satan fill your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself. The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God!”  

As soon as Ananias heard these words, he fell to the floor and died...” Straight after this, Saphira fell down and died also for lying about the same thing. 

The Message Bible translates the last verse, “By this time the whole church and, in fact, everyone who heard of these things had a healthy respect for God. They knew God was not to be trifled with.”  

HELL 

The ultimate discipline of God is total separation from Him, described in the Bible as Hell. I don’t like talking about Hell, but I’d be a fool to say in my heart that there is no God or there is no hell.  

The Lord, however, does not want anyone to endure the discipline of hell. Everyone of us has opportunity to respond to Christ. No-one else has come to save us. 

2 Peter 3:9 (NLT) says, “The Lord isn’t really being slow about His promise, as some people think. No, He is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.” 

So let’s be realistic. If you are someone who has read these words, you need to realise that God is waiting for you with open arms, not with a razor strap. You were created for a purpose, not for discipline. The first step is faith in Christand ignoring His claims is a disastrous choice. 

John 3:36 (NLT) says, “… anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life. Anyone who doesn’t obey the Son will never experience eternal life but remains under God’s angry judgment.” 

Pastor Ross 

 

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The Love, justice and grace of God © Image created by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 5:9-12 – DO I REALLY WANT JUSTICE? (An interview with King David)

ME: David says in Psalm 5:9,10 (NLT) “My enemies cannot speak a truthful word. Their deepest desire is to destroy others. O God, declare them guilty. Let them be caught in their own traps. Drive them away because of their many sins, for they have rebelled against You” (Psalm 5:10 NLT).

If I had a chance to question King David on these things, I would probably ask…

AVENGE MY ENEMIES?

ME: Should I pray for Justice on the earth; vengeance from God on those who lie about me?  Yet you, David, pray for exactly that. Isn’t this a sinful prayer?

DAVID: There is always a balance of God’s Love and Justice in the Scriptures and in this case, I am asking for Justice. Those who practice deceit inevitably fall into their own traps and I pray that they will do so. After all, such sin is rebellion against God as their King not just me as their king.

Psalm 33:5 (NLT) says “He loves whatever is just and good; the unfailing love of the Lord fills the earth.” Notice, God is a God of Love, … and He loves Justice.

LOVE MY ENEMIES?

ME: But how does this line up with the words of Jesus, the Messiah, your descendant?

In Matthew 5:38-48 (NLT) Jesus gives a different perspective on how we are to regard enemies. He says “You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow.” 

“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For He gives His sunlight to both the evil and the good, and He sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

LOVE AND HATE 

DAVID: You say that what Jesus says is a totally different perspective, but is it? Look closely. I notice that there is a recognition that followers of Christ do have enemies. The choices we make reflect the Father’s attitude toward enemies. He also has enemies. In Psalm 5:5 (NLT), I have written part of God’s Word, saying “… for You hate all who do evil. 

Yes, let’s admit it. God hates those who do evil, but strangely provides ways for repentance for them anyway. I know this first hand. I know personally God’s justice and grace in action.

So just as I have used the word Hate in a judicial sense in my 5th Psalm, the Love Jesus speaks of is obviously given as an example of what you can actively do in order to live as a follower of Christ. Love is certainly not an emotional response to evil people. It is something you do despite your feelings about sin. Love your enemy in the sense of doing good to them, not in the sense of condoning their evil ways.

Fools do what their enemies want, and do it begrudgingly and under their authority, but free people are those who exercise purity by choice, under the authority of God, doing what we are created for and going the second mile. It provides an example of the love of God at work, which may bring our enemies to repentance. I wanted my son Absalom to come to repentance but it didn’t happen.

UNPRETENTIOUS LOVE AND HATE 

ME: But Romans 12:9ff (NLT) makes it very clear. It says, “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good…. Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. … Live in harmony with each other. … Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

DAVID: Again, I notice in this verse that followers of Christ don’t just pretend to love others and yet they still hate what is wrong. We do not relinquish our essential ethical stance on evil in the world for the sake of loving others. They go hand in hand.

Love, justice and grace animation © Image and Animation created by Ross Cochrane

JUSTICE AND EVIL

ME: Thanks David. In Psalm 5, I am starting to see that you do not pray sinfully or from a human perspective although I can tell you that some commentators I have read have concluded this. It is not that easy to pass over what you are saying about your enemies. I love the fact that you are being honest before God but you also acknowledge that it is only God who can take care of justice. Only He is able to do this.

This is consistent with Romans 12:17-21 (NLT) which says, “Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord. Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.” Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.” 

DAVID: I can see that followers of Christ recognise that there is evil in the world, but choose to conquer it, not copy it, by doing good.

ME: Yes and Galatians 6:7-9 (NLT) says, “Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” 

Jesus didn’t wipe out the Sanhedrin when He was so unjustly treated. He didn’t strike back. Evil people will have their day in God’s courtroom or even experience God’s discipline while they are on earth in all kinds of ways in order to bring them to repentance and faith in Christ.

THE HEART AND HATE

DAVID: I notice that many people want to quote me in Psalm 139:23 (NLT) which says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends You, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”

But the verse I wrote before this beautiful verse speaks about what I hate.  Few people want to quote my heart in Psalm 139:21-22 (NLT). It says, Lord, shouldn’t I hate those who hate You? Shouldn’t I despise those who oppose You? Yes, I hate them with total hatred, for Your enemies are my enemies.” 

If you remember, I already said in Psalm 5 that God hates them too. I am only agreeing with God.

I would hope that those who follow Christ recognise evil for what it is, recognise enemies for who they are, and Satan for who He is. We choose to hate what is wrong and hold tightly to what is good. We hate what God hates and love what God loves.

CURSING AND BLESSING

God promised Abraham that He would bless those who blessed Israel and curse those who cursed them (Genesis 12:1-3). Let’s not water it down. God has a judicial hatred of sin and those who sin. We are not called to be neutral but to stand for what is right and most importantly live as people who do what is right.

With regards to those who exclude God from their lives, my Psalm calls them rebellious (Psalm 5:10), not only against God but also His anointed king.

ME: Well, Followers of Christ pray the Lord’s prayer, that His kingdom will come on earth as it is in heaven. That will involve the destruction of sin, rebellion and wickedness of all kinds, but that’s in the hands of a just and loving God.

DAVID: Are you reviled by God who hates sin and sinful people?

ME: In my culture I find the concepts difficult. Nevertheless, the invitation of the Bible is for me to regard sin through the eyes of God.

REDEMPTIVE POTENTIAL

The injunctive we have from God as believers is that we see people from the standpoint of the Cross. We see their redemptive potential. We co-operate with God, who sees His enemies as those with a capacity to repent, just as you, David, repented. We co-operate with God who loves His enemies in the sense that He offers them a way to be forgiven, not that He loves them for their defiled lifestyle.

DAVID: I know firsthand what forgiveness from God is. And despite Absalom’s attempt to overthrow me, I sought to show mercy. I didn’t want to see him die in battle.

In Psalm 5:11 (NLT), I wrote But let all who take refuge in You rejoice; let them sing joyful praises forever. Spread Your protection over them, that all who love Your Name may be filled with joy.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am not joyful about people lying about me or happy about people trying to murder me. I’m not condoning their sin by ignoring it or trying to see their point of view. I am joyful because I feel safe in the refuge of the Rock of Ages. I recognised that some of those who had a genuine relationship with God were misled and even for them I ask for God to protect them and give them joy.

A SHIELD OF LOVE 

“For You bless the Godly, O Lord; You surround them with Your shield of love” (Psalm 5:12 NLT).

ME: What I get from your Psalm is that when I am dislocated from a relationship with God, I am exposed to attack from the circumstances of life. The invitation of Psalm 5 is to take cover by finding security through genuine trust in God.

DAVID: Yes, the shield I refer to in my Psalm is a large shield which covers the whole body. God’s love is such a shield. The only thing my enemies can see is God’s love for me. This shield of love absorbs all that my enemy’s hate can throw against me.

ME: Thankyou David. The invitation of Psalm 5 surely leads me to stand for the Truth, to see evil for what it is, to leave justice to God and to show an active love for my enemiesThis willingness to conquer evil with good provides an example which may bring my enemies to repentance as they see the active nature of the love of God. 

Pastor Ross

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Pinocchioism © Image created by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 5:9-12 – PINOCCHIOISM 

PINOCCHIO AND LYING

Pinocchio, the cute puppet who became a boy is a symbol of all barefaced liars.

He represents the poker-faced bluffs and feints of experienced liars. He personifies those who cover-up their embarrassing actions by their denials only to deceive themselves. He symbolizes those who defame reputations and try to deflect or ignore anyone who tries to hold them to account.

The protruding nose of Pinocchio pictures the calculated disinformation which grows and damages lives in the process, those who stretch the truth or minimize it when it suits them. From fib to fraud, their deceptive nature evades and blames and misrepresents.

Pinocchioism can be readily observed in the type of journalism that has little to no legitimate well-researched news but has eye-catching headlines used for self-serving purposes: captions that exaggerate and sensationalize, leaving out the contextualizing facts, and articles that pad their misrepresentations and misconceptions with other unsubstantiated lies.

Pinnochioism is found in Australian banks of late and other businesses run by leaders who alter and conveniently hide or destroy anything that may incriminate them in a court of law, giving the impression that it never happened; strategic lies in order to cover-up. CEO Pinocchios perjure themselves under oath when it serves the company, the bottom dollar and their fabricated reputation.

The age-old joke that you can tell when a politician is lying because his lips move is funny, but only because we associate politicians with lying so consistently.

And not too far from the lying words of politician Pinocchios, is the deceptive use of propaganda and warfare we see paraded in our news broadcasts across the world where lies become the most dangerous.

WAR AND LYING

According to Wikipedia, Sun Tzu declared that “All warfare is based on deception.” Machiavelli advised in The Prince “never to attempt to win by force what can be won by deception”, and Thomas Hobbes wrote in Leviathan: “In war, force and fraud are the two cardinal virtues.”

These thoughts are only echoes of Davids words in Psalm 5:9 where he says his enemies “Cannot speak a truthful word. Their deepest desire is to destroy others” – Nothing they say is true, reliable, dependable or trustworthy.

“Their talk is foul, like the stench from an open grave”  Their hearts are spiritually dead on the inside and as a result, the dreadful odor of their corruptive influence is released. What a damning picture.

INHERENT LYING

What is even more disturbing about these words is that they are repeated and applied in the New Testament with implications that brings the stench of their corruption to all of us.

Romans 3:9-20, in the New Testament, quotes the words of Psalm 5:9 above and applies it much further than to David’s enemies. Listen to this…

“… all people, whether Jews or Gentiles, are under the power of sin. 

As the Scriptures say, “No one is righteous – not even one. No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one.”

“Their talk is foul, like the stench from an open grave. Their tongues are filled with lies.”   

“Snake venom drips from their lips.” 
“Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.” 
 Destruction and misery always follow them. They don’t know where to find peace.”
“They have no fear of God at all.”

… the entire world is guilty before God. … The law simply shows us how sinful we are.”

The New Testament states that all people are sinful and thus enemies of God’s purposes and living a lie, a lie which corrupts to the core of our being.

According to Wikipedia, at the age of about four and a half years, children begin to be able to lie convincingly.

Apparently, there is no equality in lying although men and women lie at equal frequencies. However, men are more likely to lie in order to please themselves while women are more likely to lie to please others. Studies have shown that we are less likely to lie when we have moral reminders or when we think others are watching.

One Psychologist, Hannah Arendt, said that when lying is accepted as a cultural norm, then no-one trusts anyone or anything that they hear, whereas honesty allows you to have deeper relationships. (Arendt, Hannah. “Hannah Arendt: From an Interview.” The New York Review of Books. 26 October 1978 issue. 30 November 2017.)

In John 8:44 (NLT) Jesus is speaking to those who are trying to trap Him “For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

GOD AND LIES

In contrast, Numbers 23:19 (NLT) says, “God is not a man, so He does not lie. He is not human, so He does not change His mind. Has He ever spoken and failed to act? Has He ever promised and not carried it through?” 

Colossians 3:9 (NLT) therefore says to followers of Christ, “Don’t lie to each other…” We represent Jesus, the way, the truth and the life. Of all people, Christians have the capacity, responsibility and incentive to be honest.

In Psalm 5, enemies of truth, therefore, are enemies of God and of David who follows the truth. Psalm 5 speaks of lies that seek to destroy lives and speak of rebellion against God.

King David is more direct in Psalm 4:2 “How long will you continue your lies? Interlude” asks David but through himit is God who asks this question today.

We are all capable of manipulating the truth to get ourselves out of a corner.

I want something I can be sure of. In John 17:17 (NLT) Jesus prays for those who are His disciples, “Sanctify them by the Truth; Your Word is Truth.”

GOD AND TRUTH

God’s Word is Truth, absolute truth. I am invited to test the truth of His Word by living my life according to its precepts, without uncertainty.

INVITATION TO TRUTH

I particularly want to be honest and call a lie a lie. I want to be able to admit to myself when I am operating from deception (and not to start believing my own lies as being my version of the truth). 

I want to be able to admit my deceptive behavior to God and see it from His point of view. Better still, I want to operate from the Truth in the first place. This is one of the serious challenges of our times (and of my life personally). It has to do with admitting when I am wrong and to have an external set of standards that don’t depend on me. I need God’s standard of truth to do this. 

The invitation is to know Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6). John 8:32 (NLT) says, “… you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 

Pastor Ross

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Photo by Anabel Litchfield (see http://anabel.com.au/about)

Psalm 5:8-11 – WHAT I LEARNED FROM A RECENT FAMILY CRISIS  

I’ve been reading Psalm 5 and have been trying to understand something of King David’s prayer, not expecting to see an example of it in my family.  

It takes faith to believe that God will grant us victory over everyday difficulties, but it takes greater faith to trust God when we go through suffering and loss. Victory comes, but often in ways we don’t expect. Our family recently reminded me that…. 

  1. WITH GREAT FAITH COMES GREAT SACRIFICE 

I know that God often answers our prayers in the ways we desire, but I know also that He allows that some of His people will suffer.  

David can’t put words to the crisis he faces when he says in Psalm 5:1 (NLT), “O Lord, … pay attention to my groaning…”  

Our daughter, Rachel (River) and Son-in-law, Joel, travelled home from Africa after preaching the gospel to countless crowds, only to discover that Joel’s Mum, Elaine, had collapsed and was now on life support. As they rushed to the hospital, their prayer was that she be restored to full health. I walked and talked with Joel at the hospital and he knew that it would take even greater faith to refine that prayer and make a decision to take her off life support.  

God invites us to have that kind of faith, to trust Him, even when we go through various trials. At first, not everything we might desire is in His purposes for us, but as we align our desires with His purposes, there is victory. 

  1. KEEP MOVING AND TRUSTING

As we spoke to Joel, he said he didn’t want to face his Mum’s funeral. It was all too big. But at the funeral, he spoke about how the Bennett family doesn’t back away from difficult situations.  

He has a path for us to take. We don’t stand still. Psalm 5:8,12 (NLT) invites God’s direction and protection in a crisis.  He finds a way where there is no way. It says “Lead me in the right path, O Lord, or my enemies will conquer me. Make Your way plain for me to follow …. For You bless the godly, O Lord; You surround them with Your shield of love.”  

King David, but also the Bennett family reminds me that in a crisis, it is not always easy to see the way ahead. Jesus directs us when all around is perilous. He’s there, ahead of us, encouraging us to keep moving and trusting.   

When my heart is following God then it may be difficult, and there are circumstances that may cause me pain, but He gives perspective and it will be plain, simple, straightforward for me to follow the right path. There is heartache but at least there is no confusion when God is leading.  

When I pull away from Him it can become very confusing and difficult and I am defeated. Life gets complicated when I am not in that place of relationship with God, dependent upon His guidance. My only responsibility is to move forward in dependence on His grace, not back away. 

  1. GRIEF IS THE PRICE OF LOVE. 

As members of the family and many of the Church family gathered around Elaine’s bed at the hospital, communion was shared. My Son-in-law and other family members spoke. Joel’s Dad said Elaine breathed her last breath just as the service concluded. The Pastor at the funeral service said that grief is the sacrifice we make when we love someone.  

The well-worn words of Romans 8:28 (NLT) come to mind, “… we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.”   

Later, at the funeral, Joel was the last member of the family to speak and he wrapped up all that needed to be said, simply and beautifully. Among other things, he said,  

  1. PRAISE GIVES YOU HOPE IN THE MIDST OF DIFFICULT CIRCUMSTANCES

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Photo by Anabel Litchfield

In the midst of a crisis, David was able to pray, “Because of Your unfailing love, I can enter Your house; I will worship at Your Temple with deepest awe” (Psalm 5:7 NLT).  

The funeral service was amazing. A celebration of life with beautiful praise music and worship. We were proud of Joel, of our daughter Rachel who stood beside him, and of our grandchildren who took part in the service.  

At the end of his tribute, Joel expressed how his Mum would have wanted, above all else, that people come to know Jesus.   

In the light of sadness and loss, I see such strength of character developing. Even in the midst of pain, there is a maturity that emerges.  

  1. THERE ARE STILL OPPORTUNITIES FOR JOY

I am reminded that for the Bennetts, and particularly my grandchildren, as they learn to navigate the paths of victory in the midst of pain, that the words of Romans 5:3-4 (NLT) will accompany them through life… “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.”  

Psalm 5:11 (NLT) says “But let all who take refuge in You rejoice; let them sing joyful praises forever. Spread Your protection over them, that all who love Your Name may be filled with joy.”  

I look back at the photos from the funeral, beautiful photos taken by a sensitive friend, Bel Litchfield, and I see Joel and his family singing and praising together.   

Julie and I have always encouraged Joel and our grandchildren to take refuge in God. In doing so, even in the midst of pain, the paradox is that they will find joy and natural praise will overflow.  

  1. LET GOD TAKE THE FORCE OF THE BLOW

 

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Photo by Anabel Litchfield

In some photos I see Joel and Rachel with their arms protectively around their family, shielding them but also helping them to face the challenges of grief.  

Psalm 5:12 (NLT) says “For You bless the godly, O Lord; You surround them with Your shield of love.” 

Once more I am reminded that Christ protects me and there is security and joy in Him. Challenges still come but I am in His hands. When I am dislocated from a relationship with God I am exposed to attack from the circumstances of life.   

When I face the battles of life, I am protected as I take refuge in God. He is my refuge, my shield, and He takes the force of the blows.

Bennetts, Julie and I are so proud of you. We love you. 

Pastor Ross

Risk and Reward

What and who God hates!? © Image created by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 5:4-6 – WHAT AND WHO GOD HATES!?

Psalm 5 gives great principles of how to pray when I am overwhelmed, but in the midst of it, we are confronted by what David says about what and who God hates. So far Psalm 5 encourages me to…

  1. EXPRESS MYSELF IN WORDS AND/OR EMOTIONS “… groaning.”
  2. RECOGNISE GOD’S AUTHORITY OVER MY LIFE “… my King”.
  3. BOLDLY ASK FOR GOD’S FAVOUR “Listen to my cry for help”.
  4. BE PERSISTENT IN PRAYER “Each morning…” 
  5. WAIT EXPECTANTLY FOR HIM TO ANSWER, rather than get discouraged.

And then I am encouraged to…

     6. SEE THINGS FROM GOD’S PERSPECTIVE

This next part of Psalm 5 is where I am confronted by WHAT GOD HATES AND WHO GOD HATES.  Firstly WHAT GOD HATES…

“O God, You take no pleasure in wickedness; You cannot tolerate the sins of the wicked” (Psalm 5:4 (NLT).

Habakkuk 1:13 (NLT) mirrors this when it says, “But You are pure and cannot stand the sight of evil.”  

So, if God hates evil, then those who follow Christ also hate evil. Those who love Him LOVE WHAT HE LOVES but they also HATE WHAT HE HATES. Psalm 97:10 says “You who love the Lord, hate evil!…” Romans 12:9 (NLT) says, “… Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.”

So far so good. But the following verses disturb our comfortable view about God.

If you are overwhelmed by the difficulties of life, this Psalm goes on to say,

     7. BE WILLING TO HUMBLE MYSELF BEFORE GOD

“Therefore, THE PROUD may not stand in Your presence,…” (Psalm 5:5 NLT).

Who is the PROUD person?

In the context of this passage, a “PROUD” person is someone who thinks they can disregard the authority of God in their lives and live their own way.

What does it mean that they will NOT STAND IN GOD’S PRESENCE? 

Standing in God’s presence speaks of RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD.

When I ignore God, He will NOT FORCE me into relationship with Him, but the consequence is that I will not come to know Him or His purposes for my life. I will also face an eternity without Him.

The Bible speaks often of GOD’S LOVE FOR PEOPLE. 1 John 4:16 says “We know how much GOD LOVES US, and we have PUT OUR TRUST IN HIS LOVE. GOD IS LOVE, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.”

BUT IS THERE ANYONE THAT GOD HATES?

The answer is YES, and a sobering truth, when I am overwhelmed by life’s difficulties, is that Psalm 5 invites me to ….

     8. RECOGNISE THAT I AM ACCOUNTABLE TO GOD   

Psalm 5 gives us further insight into God’s character. These next verses are expressed very strongly. They talk about WHAT AND WHO GOD HATES. 

We know He hates things like DECEPTION AND IMMORALITY and MURDER but Psalm 5 goes further… 

In Psalm 5, King David talks about God’s HATRED of SOME PEOPLE… 

He says “… for You HATE all who DO EVIL. You will DESTROY those who TELL LIES. The Lord DETESTS MURDERERS AND DECEIVERS” Psalm 5:5-6 (NLT).

From deceivers to murderers is a big jump and God HATES THEM ALL!?

Now, remember that the person writing these verses is KING DAVID.

King David did some things God HATES. He COMMITTED ADULTERY with Bathsheba and then DECEIVED AND MURDERED her husband, Uriah the Hittite.

King David might as well be saying that God hates him. 

But then in the next breath, David talks about God’s LOVE. Psalm 5:7 (NLT) says “Because of Your UNFAILING LOVE, I can enter Your house;…” 

IF KING DAVID HAS DONE THE EVIL THINGS THAT HE SAYS GOD HATES, THEN HOW CAN HE TALK OF GOD’S UNFAILING LOVE FOR HIM?

Look down to Psalm 5:10 (NLT). It says “O God, DECLARE THEM GUILTY. Let them be CAUGHT IN THEIR OWN TRAPS. DRIVE THEM AWAY because of their MANY SINS, for they have REBELLED AGAINST YOU.” (Psalm 5:10 NLT)

That’s what happened to David! David was declared GUILTY by Nathan the Prophet. He was CAUGHT IN HIS OWN TRAP. He had REBELLED AGAINST GOD and almost driven away because of his many sins.

Romans 1:18 (NLT) says, “But God SHOWS HIS ANGER from heaven against ALL SINFUL, WICKED PEOPLE WHO SUPPRESS THE TRUTH BY THEIR WICKEDNESS.” 

The trouble is that the Bible says we are ALL SINFUL PEOPLE. Romans 3:23 (NLT) “For EVERYONE HAS SINNED; we ALL fall short of God’s glorious standard.”

IS EVERYONE HATED BY GOD? WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS?

We all like to quote John 3:16, 18a (NLT) which says, “For this is how God LOVED THE WORLD: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life… There is no judgment against anyone who believes in Him. 

But what about the rest of John 3:18 (NLT), … But anyone who does not believe in Him has ALREADY BEEN JUDGED for not believing in God’s one and only Son.” 

HOW CAN DAVID TALK OF GOD’S LOVE FOR HIM? 

The only reason I can find is that David REPENTED OF HIS SIN AND GOD FORGAVE HIM. He also paid the heavy consequences of his actions (2 Samuel 12).

For us, God’s love and hatred are connected to the Cross. God found a way to love those He hates.

So we cannot look at Psalm 5 without seeing it through the eyes of the Cross.

     9. UNDERSTAND THAT WITHOUT CHRIST, WE ARE ALL ENEMIES OF GOD, AND WE ALL NEED GOD’S FORGIVENESS

Romans 5:6-21 (NLT) says that before we started following Christ we were ALL SINNERS AND ENEMIES OF GOD.

It says, “God showed HIS GREAT LOVE for us by sending Christ to die for us WHILE WE WERE STILL SINNERS. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, He will certainly SAVE US from GOD’S CONDEMNATION. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of His Son WHILE WE WERE STILL HIS ENEMIES we will certainly be saved through the life of His Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us FRIENDS OF GOD….”

So, here’s what I have discovered so far about Psalm 5 and what and who God hates.

  • The Bible says that ALL PEOPLE HAVE SINNED
  • It also says GOD HATES SINFUL PEOPLE.
  • WE WERE ALL ENEMIES OF GOD
  • God takes no pleasure in us being His ENEMIES because of our sin.
  • God wants to express His LOVE to us, not His HATRED.
  • God sent Christ into the world to SAVE HIS ENEMIES – US so that we could be recipients of His LOVE.
  • Christ tells His disciples to LOVE YOUR ENEMIES just as He did.
  • Christ PAID THE PENALTY for our sins and when we trust in what He has done for us, we are NO LONGER GOD’S ENEMIES but FRIENDS OF GOD and recipients of His LOVE.

2 Peter 3:9 (NLT) says, “The Lord … does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants EVERYONE TO REPENT.” 

David is able to pray confidently, Because of Your unfailing love, I can enter Your house; I will worship at Your Temple with deepest awe” (Psalm 5:7 NLT).

With Christ in my life, my response to God’s unfailing love is worship with a deep sense of awe and expectation. God loves me and I know that I can stand confidently in His presence. His invitation extends to all who trust in Him.

When I say, “God loves the sinner but not the sin”, it is a little too simplistic. He hates us being His enemies and sent Christ to restore a broken and deadly relationship.

For followers of Christ, the invitation of Psalm 5 is to enter into God’s presence in prayer,  and we can do so because of His unfailing love. That environment of God’s unfailing love invites us to find our destiny. That environment of God’s unfailing love enables us to stand firm in the battles of life.

Pastor Ross

IN THE QUIET MOMENTS WHEN ARGUMENTS NO LONGER MATTER

How do I pray when I am overwhelmed? © Image created by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 5  HOW DO I PRAY WHEN I AM OVERWHELMED?

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull from Australia was recently ousted from leadership. In revealing speeches, he spoke about bullying and intimidation.

“The reality is that a minority in the party room … have sought to bully [and] intimidate others into making this change of leadership.”

“… if people do want to conduct an internal insurgency, then, you know, that — they’re very hard to stop.

Welcome to Australian Politics.

King David also faced an insurgency. Absalom’s strategy to dethrone his own father was a war of words. His flattering words and false rumours served to destabilise David’s kingdom. David found that the best defence against those who lie like the devil is to pray like a saint.

If a telephone call can be likened to David’s morning prayer, then it is a conference call and all of us are privy to his words down through the centuries …

HOW DO YOU PRAY WHEN YOU ARE OVERWHELMED BY LIFE’S CIRCUMSTANCES?

  1. EXPRESS YOURSELF IN WORDS AND EMOTIONS

“O Lord, hear me as I pray; pay attention to my groaning” (Psalm 5:1 NLT).

Romans 8:26-27 says that when we don’t have the words to pray that “… the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.”

Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for I pray to no one but You” (Psalm 5:1-2 NLT).

     2. RECOGNISE GOD’S AUTHORITY

“O Lord,.. my King”. 

David, the king of Israel calls God LORD AND KING. He recognises the highest authority. If He is my Lord and my King then He has authority over me and my circumstances and therefore I can come humbly before Him when I need help.

David says he prays to no one but You (God)”. He’s not relying on people or his own abilities and thinking, or other gods, but seeks help from God alone.

     3. BOLDLY ASK FOR UNDESERVED FAVOUR

David cries, “Listen to my cry for help”.

For followers of Christ, we have the assurance that God hears our prayers. Hebrews 4:14-16 (NLT) says that Jesus “… understands our weaknesses, for He faced all of the same testings we do, yet He did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.”

     4. BE PERSISTENT IN PRAYER 

Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord. Each morning I bring my requests to You... (Psalm 5:3 NLT).

Each morning – Notice David makes it a habit to pray each day. Beginning each day in prayer shows a consistent lifestyle of prayer and dependence in God.

     5. WAIT EXPECTANTLY FOR HIM TO ANSWER

“… I bring my requests to You and wait expectantly” (Psalm 5:3 NLT).

If I trust in God then I will have a capacity to wait expectantly for the answers I need in life.

By myself, I can become very discouraged, but when I trust in God there is a healthy expectation that God wants the best for me and rather than get depressed by the events of my life, I look for the answers.

But there is more to this prayer and some of David’s words you may find disturbing. (Read my next post)

Pastor Ross

Lie like the Devil or...

Lie like the devil or ….?

Truth isn’t truth? © Image by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 4:1-2 – TRUTH ISN’T TRUTH? CONTEXT NEEDED.

Psalm 4:2 King David says, “How long will you people ruin my reputation? How long will you make groundless accusations? How long will you continue your lies? Interlude” 

Recently, President Donald Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, claimed that “truth isn’t truth” during a television interview. Even in context, this statement is a sad reflection on politics.

He was talking about a conversation between President Trump and FBI director James Comey in February 2017. Mr Comey’s account of that conversation is quite different from President Trump’s.

Guiliani said, “When you tell me that he (Donald Trump) should testify because he’s going to tell the truth and he shouldn’t worry, well that’s so silly because it’s somebody’s version of the truth. Not the truth.”

Todd responded: “Truth is truth.” Mr Giuliani said: “Truth isn’t truth.”

Mr Giuliani then gave context to his comment – “If you’re just a genius, tell me what the truth is! We have a credibility gap  You’ve got to select between the two of them.”

In another interview, Mr Giuliani was commenting on facts. He said, “It’s in the eye of the beholder,”

“No, facts are not in the eye of the beholder,” Cuomo said.

“… yes they are. Nowadays they are,” Giuliani asserted.

Even given context, Giuliani’s “truth isn’t truth” and “facts are in the eye of the beholder” remarks, points to a worldview that everyone can have their own version of the truth and that there is no absolute truth. Relativism.

Lindy Keffer from Focus on the Family says, “In a society where ultimate truth is treated like a fairy tale, an outdated idea or even an insult to human intelligence, the motto of the day becomes, “WHATEVER!” Believe whatever you want. Do whatever seems best to you. Live for whatever brings you pleasure, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone. And of course, be tolerant. Don’t try to tell anyone that their whatever is wrong.” 

The Press has had a field-day with Guiliani’s comments, but some people have pointed out that when Guiliani’s interview was broadcast by the newspapers and twitter comments, the headlines and some articles left out the context of his “truth isn’t truth” statement and are therefore also misleading, lies in themselves, their version of the truth of what was said without the context, and thus proving his assertion.

King David is more direct in Psalm 4:2 “How long will you continue your lies? Interlude” asks David but through him, it is God who asks this question today.

We are all capable of manipulating the truth to get ourselves out of a corner. The blatant lies of politicians have long been acknowledged. The slogan from the Bible that hangs over the door of many courtrooms, “You will know the Truth and the Truth will set you free” appears to have been watered down to “I will have my version of the truth and you will have your version of the truth and one of us will be set free depending on what someone else’s version of the truth is.” 

Can we believe what Comey tweeted? … 

“Truth exists and truth matters. Truth has always been the touchstone of our country’s justice system and political life. People who lie are held accountable. If we are untethered to truth, our justice system cannot function and a society based on the rule of law dissolves.” Guiliani would say, “Truth according to whom?” What is the standard of truth in Comey’s statement? Does it come from an external source or from our version of the truth?

I want something I can be sure of. God’s Word is Truth, absolute truth. I am invited to test the truth of His Word by living my life according to its precepts, without uncertainty.

I particularly want to be honest and call a lie a lie. I want to be able to admit to myself when I am operating from deception (and not to start believing my own lies as being my version of the truth).

I want to be able to admit my deceptive behaviour to God and see it from His point of view. Admitting a lie to others is perhaps the most difficult thing to do. Better to operate from the Truth in the first place. This is one of the serious challenges of our times (and of my life personally). It has to do with admitting when I am wrong and have an external set of standards that don’t depend on me. I need God’s standard of truth to do this.

You can be sure of this: The Lord set apart the godly for Himself. The Lord will answer when I call to Him” (Psalm 4:3 NLT).

Answer me when I call to You, O God who declares me innocent” (Psalm 4:1 NLT).

It’s what God declares over my life that matters most. Just as David is declared innocent by God, I am declared by God to be forgiven because of what Christ accomplished on the Cross for me.

I have come to know the Way, the Truth and the Life, and the Truth has set me free.

I can come to Him at any time and He listens if I am willing to give an honest account.

Free me from my troubles. Have mercy on me and hear my prayer.

The Bible never says that I won’t face troubles, but it speaks of God undeserved favor (mercy) and that He hears my prayer.

Even David as a King faces challenges and needs God’s help. He asks humbly for God’s undeserved favor, knowing that God will hear his deepest prayers.

Through this prayer of David, God invites me to call to Him and acknowledge my need for His help, without the lies.

Pastor Ross

Related Article

https://www.focusonthefamily.com/parenting/teens/absolute-truth

 

Was Blind1

Was blind, … © Created Images by Ross Cochrane using Blender 2.79b Cycles

Matthew 20:29-30 -  INTERVIEW  – ONCE BLIND 

As Jesus and the disciples left the town of Jericho, a large crowd followed behind.Two blind men were sitting beside the road.  

I interviewed Daniel in a Church service recently. He is completely blind. Daniel said “I was not always blind so I know what I have lost. Being so much older now, I have lost a lot of my mobility and my blindness adds to my lack of independence. Simple things can be difficult for me. For example, I still cannot use my phone and at times I can’t even find the cradle in which to replace it.”

Together Daniel and I related his story to this passage of the Bible in Matthew 20. I didn’t record the interview but you’ll find many of his thoughts in the story below …

If I went back in time with a Camera crew and met and interviewed the 2 blind beggars on the side of the road before Jesus came along, the interview might go something like this… 

Was Blind2

Was Blind, … © Created Images by Ross Cochrane

I am here just outside Jericho, on a very busy road, and in a short time, we will try to get an interview with Jesus as He passes this way. In the meantime, we are speaking to Azriel and Efraim (not their real names), both believers and both completely blind. 
I am interested in what life is like for you and what is your take on the events of this day. Azriel, may I start with you. You went blind in your 20’s as a result of cataracts. May I ask you first what problems you face in everyday life and how your blindness restricts you?

Azriel: Yes, Of course. As you can imagine, I have lost a lot of my independence. I can’t work so I have experienced a dramatic loss of income. This means I have been reduced to begging and relying on others for my livelihood. The money I make from begging is often inadequate. That’s partly why I am here.

How did you find your way here today?

Azriel: It was a challenge, but I know this road and I just had to follow the noises of the people and ask for directions. This is the major road out of Jericho.

Mostly, my life is monotonous, sitting near the city gate begging, but at this time of year, everyone is going to the Passover in Jerusalem. Jericho is a major roadway to Jerusalem and everyone has a story to tell or news to share. That’s how we discovered news about Jesus passing this way.

I can beg by the roadside and listen to the conversations. I make a lot of money with so many people going by and learn a lot about what is happening in the world.

Ephraim: I don’t like going outside but I have to if I am going to survive. Azriel and I travel together. It’s a little like the Blind leading the Blind and the trouble is, it’s not always safe, with ditches, wagons, animals and Roman soldiers. People expect us to get out of the way. We know the best places to beg but often they are also the most dangerous.

It must be difficult to get through the crowded areas

Ephraim: Being on the road to Jericho at this time of year is always exhausting. Too many people roaming about, bumping into us or tripping over us. But we have to contend with the crowds to survive. We have no judgment to react quickly to any dangers so we are accident prone.

Some people give bad directions to us and others just don’t have time for us. We can’t venture out too far or we will get separated and lose our way without help. Sometimes people say “follow me” but unless they are watching us we will get lost in a crowd like this.

How do you cope emotionally with your blindness?

Efraim: I guess we cope because we don’t only rely on our hearing; on touch and smell and on taste to navigate our way through life (although my hearing is particularly good).

Before I had faith in Jesus, I found myself continually grappling with loneliness. My family seemed to be embarrassed by me and I lacked any sense of dignity. I felt as if I was not important to anyone. I felt isolated and I must admit, I still get depressed at times, but I am absolutely sure that I can rely on God and on His mercy.

I get frightened easily when I am alone outside. Rather than thinking the best in people, I can become suspicious of them. Sometimes I am not sure if I am being helped or being mugged. Azriel is fairly positive, so his friendship helps me, but I don’t make a lot of friends.

Since I believed in Christ, I have realised that I can’t trust completely in my own abilities or judgments and I can’t rely on others all the time. We can’t always just go with the crowd.

Azriel, What gives you hope?

Azriel: Our belief. As Ephraim said, we believe in Christ. We heard Him speak once and since then we have both come to believe that He is the promised Messiah, the Son of David. We will cry out for His mercy if ever we hear Him again. His mercy will give us a reason to live.

 

Was Blind111png

Is there anything else you would like to say?

Azriel: If Jesus is going to the Passover in Jerusalem, then we don’t want to be so blind as to not recognise Him.  He will probably come along this road and we are keeping our ears open. Without Jesus, we are even more blind and helpless and with nowhere to go. But God is always near to us since we believed. I pray that He will give us the eyes of faith to see Him, and the humility to shout out for His touch and His mercy. We want to understand more of who He is and what that means for our lives.

Maybe your desire will come more quickly than you realised. I have just received news that Jesus is coming this way. 

As you can hear, the moment I said Jesus was coming, these two blind men are shouting out “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”

The crowd doesn’t seem to like them calling out

“Be quiet!” 

People from the crowd are yelling at them. Let’s talk to one of them. Excuse me, can I ask you why you don’t want these blind men to get Jesus’ attention? 

Crowd member:  They are calling Jesus the Son of David. That’s a term used for the Messiah, the coming King who will one day free us from the tyranny of our enemies. Jesus may be a respected teacher but He is not the Messiah. Talk like that is almost blasphemous.

Another Crowd Member: Besides, they are beggars. As if Jesus will want to speak with beggars. It’s embarrassing.

Despite the crowds yelling at them to be quiet, Azriel and Ephraim are shouting even louder, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”

Azriel and Ephraim, you seem intent on getting this crowd a little angry. Why do you continue shouting? They want you to remain silent and go back to asking for alms. 

Azriel: This is our only opportunity to see Jesus so we cannot give in to their demands. We intend to shout even louder for His intervention of mercy, even if it is undeserved and even if they are embarrassed and have no sympathy or compassion for our desperation. We are going to “Seek the LORD while He may be found” We are going to “call upon Him while He is near” (Isaiah 55:6 NLT).

Well, it seems these two blind men cannot be dissuaded. They are shouting even louder. And Jesus is approaching. Let’s see what He does. 

Jesus hears them, and surprisingly, He is stopping to talk to them. 

“What do you want Me to do for you?”

Jesus has stopped and has asked them to articulate their needs. He seems to have accepted the title they have given Him, “Son of David”. Perhaps they are not so blind after all. It will be interesting to see if He will give them any money. They need a handout and they have already asked Him for mercy.

“Lord, we want to see!”

Well, you can see that Azriel and Ephraim are desperate, even to the point of believing that Jesus can perform a miracle and enable them to see. Jesus stands with them and the crowd have gathered around Him. They cried out for mercy desperately, but when Jesus stopped, they didn’t ask Jesus for money but for their sight. You can’t help but feel a little sorry for them, these poor beggars. Everyone has gone silent, wondering what Jesus is going to say or do. Perhaps he’ll encourage the crowd to give. How sad.

Of course, there are many desperate people on this crowded road who need the mercy of God. Not all of them are as demonstrative as these 2 beggars. Perhaps this is a reminder that none of us should be so blind as not to see the needs of those around us. Over to you…

… Wait, something is happening. 

Jesus is reaching down and touching their eyes. (Quickly, get a close-up of this.) Something is happening to their eyes. The moment Jesus touched their eyes something incredible happened! Their eyes are no longer clouded and white with cataract damage. They are clear and bright. (Did you get that?) 

The crowd have breathed a collective breath of amazement. People are gathering around. The crowd is getting a little thick around here. We can’t see what is going on. (Reporter talks to a man on a wagon) Excuse me, can you see what is happening? 

Man on wagon: Yes, Jesus was moved with compassion for two beggars and touched their eyes. Instantly they could see! They are following Him. All praise to God! (Matthew 20:34).

There you have it. We did witness something remarkable. There are too many people around for us to get through to interview Jesus and these blind beggars who apparently have been completely healed, but we will keep trying. 

Please, let us through. We are reporters. We desperately need to speak to Jesus. Please, show a bit of mercy. We can’t miss this opportunity. Not now, after what we just witnessed… 

Forget the camera, guys. We need eyes to see Him too…  

Reporter begins shouting: “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”

 ___________________________________________________________________________________________

This story needs still the words of someone like Adam Clarke, born in 1763, who wrote a commentary on this passage from the Bible and gave what proves to be a timeless invitation. He says,

Reader, whosoever thou art, act in behalf of thy soul as these blind men did in behalf of their sight, and thy salvation is sure. Apply to the Son of David; lose not a moment; He is passing by, and thou art passing into eternity, and probably wilt never have a more favorable opportunity than the present. The Lord increase thy earnestness and faith!

Pastor Ross

Related Articles

http://www.thewellatspringfield.org/a-blind-beggar-who-sees/