Archive for October, 2018

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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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Pinocchio

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