Archive for the ‘Psalms’ Category

Before the Doors and Wheels Fall off © created by Ross Cochrane as a 3d computer image using Blender 2.8 and GetPaint.net

Psalm 10 – Psalm 10:4-6 – HUMAN HUNTING – Before the Doors and the Wheels fall off? – Part 4

Introduction: Australia burns. My heart is breaking for the country and the people I love.

In Psalm 10, David speaks of the spiritual fires of destruction that can also devastate a society. Although this is a sobering picture (Psalm 10 paints a gloomy picture), you will also find David holds on to something positive to offer us also by way of hope. I have sought to grapple with my own thoughts on how to apply this part of the Bible.

The Newspapers today reflect Psalm 10. 

  • Terrorists killing innocent people. 
  • A Politician doing the wrong thing gets away with it on a technicality, 
  • Teenagers at a train station beat up an old man. 
  • In the middle of huge bushfires, a man is accused of lighting a fire deliberately. It is believed many others are also lighting fires deliberately. Others are looting. 
  • Designer drugs at concerts are so commonplace there are more lenient laws introduced in the hope to regulate too many deaths. 
  • A young truck driver is arrested recently for human trafficking. 
  • Ivan Milat a mass murderer, goes to his grave recently but refuses even on his deathbed to let families know of where the bodies are. He is defiant until death, glorying in the power he has to withhold this information and unwilling to be constrained by authority. 
  • Governments make bad decisions, and protesters turn into lawless mobs who loot shops and other businesses, and destroy property. 
  • A Football player loses his career for quoting a verse in the Bible that speaks about being accountable to God. An article declares how Christians utter hate speech by expressing anything from the Bible that is confronting. 

HOW THEN WILL I LIVE AS A FOLLOWER OF CHRIST?

How then will I live as a follower of Christ? Like David, I find myself praying for God’s protection (Psalm 10:12). Like David, I know that God thinks that we matter (Psalm 10:14). I’m probably a little less passionate in describing how I would like God to deal with arrogant people who go out of their way to ridicule belief in God or with those who lack common decency in the way Christ followers are treated, or with those who are just plain wicked in their dealings with others in our world, but I do pray for God’s justice in our wayward world, (Psalm 10:15) and I do call upon God to intervene. 

I will continue to question God but hopefully it will be like David, without the pride of thinking I could do better or know all the answers. God is not accountable to me. He is not obliged to answer my prayers in my way. He does promise justice in His time, not mine. 

THE LOVE OF CHRIST

I am called to be an instrument of His love in an unloving world, not just someone who gripes about the world. Loving your enemies is not agreeing with their behaviour. Turning the other cheek is not being a doormat but taking a choice not to allow evil to think that it is winning. How do I intervene with God’s love in an evil world?

Psalm 10:3-4 (NLT) says, “For they brag about their evil desires; they praise the greedy and curse the Lord. The wicked are too proud to seek God. They seem to think that God is dead.”

Is it pride and independence from God that feed evil desires? Why would you be too proud to even seek God? One man recently said to me, “I don’t need some divine spirit telling me what to do.” This, of course, is his choice. A commentary sums up this sentiment, however. “Pride says, “I don’t need God or anyone else. I know it all. I have arrived. Pride is impatient with a rival. It hates a superior and cannot endure a master. Pride spurns law and authority and seeks “self-authority.”” Accountability is a questionable concept apparently.

Isaiah 53:6 (NLT2) says, “All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on Him (Jesus) the sins of us all.”

For David, there is a lawlessness in his society where open violence, robbery, and murder are all too common. Self-authority taken to its logical conclusion. David doesn’t over or under expose the photograph of his culture. Strange how it still looks so much like ours. 

Who are the victims? “the innocent”; “the helpless”; “the poor” (Psalm 10:2, 8 NLT). Certainly not the Wicked. David is all for breaking the arms of the wicked (Psalm 10:15). This of course is poetic language. He doesn’t ask the Lord to kill them, but he does want God to break their arms ie to render them powerless in carrying out their evil desires.

David says, “Let them be caught in their own traps” (Psalm 10:2 NLT). There are examples of this in the Bible. Haman tried to hang Mordecai on a gallows and Haman ended up being hung upon it. Those who  tried to destroy Daniel in the lion’s den ended up being thrown in the lion’s den themselves. 

HOW DOES EVIL PERPETRATE A SOCIETY.

It starts off as an evil desire, divorced from any authority but its own. Such desires once brought the judgment of God in the form of a world-wide Flood. Genesis 6:5-6 (NLT2) says, “The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and He saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. So the Lord was sorry He had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke His heart.” This verse helps us with anthropopathisms (ascribing human emotions to God) in order to understand as best we can about God’s response to wickedness. Notice that the best way to describe God’s response in human terms is a regret and a broken heart. But even a world-wide flood won’t do it. It merely stays the hand of God for another time when He came into the world as a human being to deal once and for all with our sin.

Romans chapter 1 speaks of the road to wickedness and once again God’s response:

… because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, … 

Does God get His revenge? Does God immediately judge? No. God still allows us to choose and to go our own way to give us time to repent. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.” 

It’s easy to ascribe these characteristics to other countries but aren’t all these characteristics readily apparent in our own society where-ever you go, from domestic violence in the home, to abuse on the internet, to the glorification of human hunting in the movie theatres, to the millions of abortions in our world each year, people choosing who is qualified to live? 

A PERSON, NOT A SET OF RULES

All of this is very easily justified, but without an absolute gauge there is only Nihilism.  For a Christ follower the gauge is not a set of rules and regulations either, but a person. Jesus Christ.

David describes the wicked as predators; human hunters (Psalm 10:2). He speaks about how God’s warnings of judgment are ridiculed (Psalm 10:5-6, 11, 13,). How do I live as a Christian? Not sit around while the doors and wheels fall off? I can let God examine my own life for egotism and arrogance and conceit, pretentiousness, smugness and pride, insincerity, and deception. These things are not part of my relationship with Christ. They are throwbacks to “self-authority” that no longer has a place in my life. This year, this decade (2020) all I know is that I can trust God to work out His purposes in a sin-torn world, and the closer I am to Him, the more my life will align with His purposes for me and I will make a difference for Him, before the wheels fall off.

Philippians 1:20-26 (NLT) expresses it well for me. “For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better.” 

Pastor Ross

Living on Empty © Image created by Ross Cochrane with Blender 2.8 and GetPaint.net

Psalm 10:4-6 – HUMAN HUNTING – God Hunting – Part 3

Introduction: I looked at Australia burning on the News the other day. So many lives and such devastation. My heart is breaking for the country and the people I love.

In Psalm 10, David speaks of the spiritual fires of destruction that can also devastate a society. Although this is a sobering picture (Psalm 10 paints a gloomy picture), you will also find David holds on to something positive to offer us also by way of hope. I have sought to grapple with my own thoughts on how to apply this part of the Bible. It is in several parts.

David, in Psalm 10 says in effect that evil people are a law unto themselves, accept no boundaries, especially anything that speaks of coming under the authority of God or the principles of the Bible. He says,…

4 The wicked are too proud to seek God. They seem to think that God is dead.

Psalm 10 reminded me of Nietzche and Nihilism. I wondered what David would say if he were speaking to a modern day Nihilist. Perhaps the conversation would go something like this…

NIHILIST: God is dead!

DAVID: Is He dead or are you too proud to seek God?

NIHILIST: Modern science has effectively killed your God. We are a secular society today and we don’t find the basis for meaning and value in the West in your God. 

DAVID: Then where do you find the basis for meaning and value?

NIHILIST: That’s just it. Nothing has any inherent importance and there is no purpose, meaning or value in life. Your belief in God just provides you with a sense of value and purpose and you seek to anchor yourself to a set of rules to orient yourself to the world. But you have invented these rules and they only serve to control you.

DAVID: So let me get this straight. You don’t believe in any guiding principles? You don’t believe in morals or meaning or absolute truth? That sounds like a crisis waiting to happen. 

NIHILIST: Yes, it is a crisis and I am the master of my crisis. Morals are constantly being invented like all the other rules of society. But there is no evil or good. That died with God. Western society now makes it up as they go along. Nihilism destroys all such myths in order to find freedom from the oppression of any outward authority. 

DAVID: It would seem to me that you do not value life itself. By disrespecting those in authority, you will end up hurting those who need help the most. 

NIHILIST: Life has no meaning. You followers of God and the Bible go on about being created in God’s image. You rail against abortion and euthenasia and assisted suicide but anarchy and death are with us. 

You say we have an obligation to look after the poor but so what if people die in poverty. Life is meaningless. Our Nihilist society will continue to challenge your beliefs. Society has already dismantled your beliefs of traditional marriage and even your understanding of gender. It will destabilise your authority to make pronouncements on morality. I will continue to curse your God and your fanciful faith. Nilihism is very much part of our society. We will destroy these fancifully invented boundaries.

DAVID: So your guiding principle is destruction? 

NIHILIST: Yes to destruction, but there is no guiding principle, just power and freedom necessitated by destruction. My power, your weakness.

DAVID:  You “brag about your evil desires;… and curse the Lord.

Is it merely arrogance and pride that feeds your evil desires? Why do you want to curse the Lord?

NIHILIST: I advocate a social arrangement based on power and materialism with individual freedom as the highest goal. I denounce your God and the religious authority you have had because it is antithetical to freedom. Nothing is certain and I denounce all traditional truths as unjustifiable opinions.

We will destroy all existing political, social, and religious order because it is a prerequisite for any future improvement. I reject the possibility of absolute moral or ethical values. Good and evil don’t exist. Life has no intrinsic meaning or value. Achieving individual freedom is my only law, and the state, which necessarily imperils my freedom, must be destroyed. 

DAVID: Such attitudes make you a mere terrorist with no regard for human life.

NIHILIST: Every belief, everything you consider to be true is baseless. There is simply no truth in the world and because of this I repudiate all God’s imposed values and meaning. All of that deserves to perish and so I will be involved in destroying it. I will ridicule all your cherished beliefs and sacrosanct truths because they are symptoms of your defective myths about meaning and relevance and purpose. If that makes me a terrorist, so be it.  

DAVID:You succeed in everything you do for the moment. You do not see Your punishment awaiting You. Such arrogance and disregard of God and others has consequences. 

NIHILIST: I sneer at all my enemies, including God. And now you bring up the myth of a promise of divine punishment. Nothing bad will ever happen to me! There is no bad or good, only struggle against these myths. I am free and I will remain free of trouble forever!” 

DAVID: Your so called “trouble-free” living only causes trouble to everyone else. If you prove to be victorious (and you won’t), our world would become “a cold, inhuman world” where “nothingness, incoherence, and absurdity” would triumph.

NIHILIST: It already is. In our absurd world there are absolutely no guidelines, and any course of action, I admit, is problematic. 

DAVID: I pity you. Choosing to believe in Nothingness involves a high price and it’s result is certainly not freedom. I have found that the boundaries of my Maker give me more freedom than I imagined, real freedom. You are ever fighting against boundaries and in effect continue to create your own, in an ongoing battle. You accept life but say No to the Creator of life. Beyond your Nothingness and emptiness, there is still One greater than your philosophy. In imagining that life is meaningless and that God is dead, you have nothing but an empty lie. But God is patient, even with you, giving you time to repent and believe.

Acts 17:24-28 (NLT2) says, “He is the God who made the world and everything in it. …He Himself gives life and breath to everything, and He satisfies every need. … “His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward Him and find Him—though He is not far from any one of us. 28 For in Him we live and move and exist. …”

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 (2 Peter 3:9 NLT). 

To be continued…

Pastor Ross

Who’s Steering the Ship © Image created by Ross Cochrane with Blender 2.81 and GetPaint.net

Psalm 10:3-4 – HUMAN HUNTING – Control Issues – Part 2

David has no trouble identifying evil people in Psalm 10. They seem to enjoy terrorising those who are deemed as devalued. There is an arrogant power game enacted. They are an authority unto themselves and anyone challenging that kind of authority are seen as threats, including God. Evil people have control issues. It’s about who’s steering the ship.

For they brag about their evil desires; they praise the greedy and curse the Lord.

Evil people brag about their evil desires, and in doing so, ridicule anyone who disagrees. David says in effect that we can’t expect an evil person to have a conscience or to apologise for their actions. They feel no remorse and admit no wrong. They brag about their evil. They do not take responsibility for their cruelty. They have no moral standards by which to live but their own, and even those change as is deemed necessary.

HATE SPEECH OR GOOD NEWS?

I notice those who seek to live in relationship with Christ and uphold what the Bible teaches are increasingly silenced, ridiculed and excluded. Recently, one prominent community leader defined the Bible as “hate speech”. (Rugby chief suggests quoting Bible is hate speech.) 

Is the trend now that Christians have once again become the hunted, the bigots, bearers of hate. Are they the ones deemed as cruel and wicked? How did the gospel; the good news about God’s love, justice, peace with God, love for your neighbour and salvation from spiritual death, become bad news? 

At one point, Jesus called out people who sought to ridicule and malign His name. In Matthew 12:34, Jesus addressed the Pharisees. He said, You brood of snakes! How could evil men like you speak what is good and right? For whatever is in your heart determines what you say”. Is this hate speech or has He got a point?

One popular columnist and self-professed atheist in Australia uses language to describe Christianity as “absurd,” “brainless,” “infantile,” “embarrassing,” “transparent nonsense,” “deserving of simple mockery.” 

This atheist and others like to use the ridicule tactic. He uses a common atheist quote about Christ being “… a cosmic Jewish zombie…” which ends with “… eating fruit from a magical tree by a talking snake.” On first reading it seemed obvious to me who is the talking snake. Apparently, we are meant to immediately believe what he pontificates about Jesus, while accepting him as our guru on everything spiritual, so that he can remove the evil of believing in Christ from our souls. In Matthew 12:34 (NLT) Peter FitzSimons ridicules Christians in the name of inclusiveness and tolerance

I admit, the Atheist’s ridiculous article annoyed me. I acknowledge the creative cynicism and invective. Very clever. He has gone out of his way to deliberately misrepresent the Biblical narrative of Christ. It is such a sad commentary on the delusion and arrogance of this Atheist and others who use their obvious talents to try to discredit Jesus. Yet Jesus changed the world and continues to do so. 

With the devout fervour of their diatribe, many people today seek to denounce and silence those who believe in Christ, but Christ and His followers will not go away. 

David, in Psalm 10 says in effect that evil people are a law unto themselves, accept no boundaries, especially anything that speaks of coming under the authority of God or the principles of the Bible. He says,…

4 The wicked are too proud to seek God. They seem to think that God is dead.

The Atheist celebrity in the article mentioned above, believes anyone, especially Christians it seems, have a right to hold religious views, but they must not express them in public. Why? Because it “hurts” the current views of our society. 

Of course, in his mind, all those Australians who disagree with his illogical point of view must not challenge him. He is saying, “Stop sharing your message of faith but don’t stop listening to my message of “unbiased” reason.” ??? Is this arrogance at its ugliest? Is he the norm or the exception? Unfortunately, there are all too many who agree with his approach. 

At its worst, this kind of social engineering was Hitler’s approach – to dictate what was good for society? Silence the dissenting voices? In contrast, Jesus certainly gave people a choice to believe or not. Thousands responded positively and millions still do.

David has his gripe to God about those who seemingly get away with evil. I guess I have done this also in this article in seeking to relate this scripture to our times and to my life personally. But David’s Psalm goes well beyond griping about the world He lives in. 

I love the quote by Jack Kerouac. He’s not specifically speaking of Christians in our era, but they too are now labelled as crazy, misfits, rebels, troublemakers, not fond of the new rules of society. He says, 

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers. The rounds pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, disbelieve them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do, is ignore them, because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward. Because the ones who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” 

Jesus fits this quote well. He was and is a misfit, a rebel and troubled a lot of people. Still does. He didn’t automatically go along with the social engineers and leaders of his day. He was disbelieved and vilified, and eventually crucified, but He is still changing the world, still transforming lives, still making a difference, still bringing spiritual healing to a wounded world. 

How should I respond? For me, my choice is a relationship with Christ every-time, letting Him steer the course, and I have much to learn about discerning and responding to the spirit of this age. I do note however that Romans 12:2 (NLT) in the Bible, encourages me. It says, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” 

To be continued…

Pastor Ross

Psalm 10:1-2 – HUMAN HUNTING – Qualified to Live? – Part 1

Human Hunting © 3D Image created by Ross Cochrane on Blender 2.81 and GetPaint.net

Psalm 10:1 (NLT) says, O Lord, why do you stand so far away? Why do you hide when I am in trouble?

David is a journalist, watching what is happening in the society in which he lives and writing a controversial column in the “The Spirit of the Age”. In effect, he is saying, “There is evil being done in our community and people are getting away with murder. Only God can help us now”.

2 The wicked arrogantly hunt down the poor.

How interesting and disturbing that King David should speak of Human hunting. Human hunting refers to people being hunted and killed by other people for revenge or even entertainment or sports, and it’s usually the helpless ones. 

In a 2016 report, Daniel Wright, senior lecturer in tourism at the University of Central Lancashire, predicts the hunting of the poor will become a hobby of the super-rich in a future plagued by economic and ecological disasters and overpopulation (Human hunting).

POPULATION REDUCTION

Recently 11,000 climate change scientists published a warning about the climate emergency (This got my attention, but apparently they are not all scientists but simply people from all walks of life interested in Climate Change who had signed a petition in agreement with a much smaller number of scientists. Such names as Professors Dumbledore and Mickey Mouse were included in the list. This did not help the credibility of the document). The document went viral anyway, picked up by media outlets everywhere. The public warning, although not a scientific paper but an opinion piece, argued that the global population  “must be stabilized—and, ideally, gradually reduced—within a framework that ensures social integrity”. How will this be done? With “bold and drastic . . . population policies,” including the use of “family-planning services”… “the world population must be stabilized” World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency | BioScience

Are they talking about abortion and euthenasia? Maybe a one baby policy like they had in China? Only keep those people who can contribute to society and not those who are a “drain” on society like the disabled or aged or the poor or the displaced? Are 11,000 people really seeking to save the world through more human hunting

Victor Frankl said, “But today’s society … blurs the decisive difference between being valuable in the sense of dignity and being valuable in the sense of usefulness. If one is not cognizant of this difference and holds that an individual’s value stems only from his present usefulness, then, believe me, one owes it only to personal inconsistency not to plead for euthanasia along the lines of Hitler’s program, that is to say, ‘mercy’ killing of all those who have lost their social usefulness, be it because of old age, incurable illness, mental deterioration, or whatever handicap they may suffer. Confounding the dignity of man with mere usefulness arises from conceptual confusion that in turn may be traced back to the contemporary nihilism transmitted on many an academic campus and many an analytical couch.”

― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

What is disturbing about the first few verses in Psalm 10, where “the wicked arrogantly hunt down the poor”, is that it resonates with many of the social attitudes today in our world that regard certain people as less valuable than others. It is the wicked in Psalm 10, who with a smug sense of superiority, arrogantly choose who will live and who will be hunted down. 

ACTION MOVIES AND REALITY

Our society is fascinated by direct and blatant forms of Human Hunting given the number of movies and computer games that depict people hunting people. Do the wicked see the death of the poor as a form of entertainment? I find the focus towards human hunting of those who are devalued in our society disturbing.

I like action movies, too, I admit it.  But it is the real life scenarios enacted around our world that I don’t like. For example, according to Open Doors, a major advocate organisation for persecuted Christians (2019 World Watch List), between November 1, 2017-October 31, 2018, there were:

  • Over 245 million Christians living in places where they experience high levels of persecution
  • 4,305 Christians killed for their faith
  • 1,847 churches and other Christian buildings attacked.
  • 3,150 believers detained without trial, arrested, sentenced or imprisoned

Also, according to the United States Department of State, Christians in more than 60 countries face persecution from their governments or surrounding neighbors simply because of their belief in Jesus Christ. In Australia, we rarely see anything about these events on the news.

SOWING AND REAPING

The Bible speaks of reaping what you sow. David prays that the plans of the wicked will be thwarted by this principle of sowing and reaping …

Let them be caught in the evil they plan for others.

An evil person is someone who engages in deliberately wicked behaviors. The trouble is – today, wickedness is almost impossible to define because we have blurred and sometimes outwardly changed the distinctions of what is and is not evil. Our measure is more to do with social norms which change each decade.

CONFORM OR TRANSFORM?

For Christian Churches, you would think that the distinctions are less blurred as they supposedly have a standard of morality based on their relationship with Christ and the Bible, but this is no longer a given. As Biblical literacy diminishes and the Bible is regarded as a book we can update, are we saying we don’t need the perspectives God gives concerning the World we live in? Romans 12 still urges Christians not to conform to the world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. 

What gives me hope is when I hear about another person giving their life to Christ; living a life based on a relationship with Christ. It is only then, the Bible says, that we have any chance to live as God intends and only then do the principles taught in the Bible come alive for us, and that is life-transforming. 

To be continued…

Pastor Ross

Psalm 9 in context © Image by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 9:15-17 – IS GOD CRUEL, VIOLENT, UNJUST AND INTOLERANT? – Part 6

I was interested to read the take on Psalm 9 from “The Skeptics Annotated Bible”. I was a little shocked by the rather ruthless emojis representing God as cruel, violent, unjust and intolerant, and a statement about this verse. It said, “If you pray to God, he will kill your enemies and destroy cities for you”. I wonder what David would say in conversation with this Skeptic. In this series I have placed words in David’s mouth but sought to remain true to what Psalm 9 and the Bible actually says about God. I hope this last episode will add to your understanding of a loving and just God.

DAVID: “The needy will not be ignored forever; the hopes of the poor will not always be crushed.”    

SKEPTIC: OK. I get that, but what I am talking about is that you pray that God will destroy your enemies. What has that got to do with the poor and needy?

DAVID: What I am saying is that God never forgets those who suffer because of evil, cruel, intolerant, violent and unjust people, people with the very characteristics that you ascribe to God. The poor and needy are destitute directly because of wicked people. They are emotionally defeated because they have been beaten down by evildoers. Justice, however, will eventually be served. 

Galatians 6:7 (NLT) says, “Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant.”

DAVID: “Arise, O Lord! Do not let mere mortals defy you! Judge the nations! Make them tremble in fear, O Lord. Let the nations know they are merely human. Interlude” (Psalm 9:18 NLT)   

SKEPTIC: Do you really think it is right to ask God to judge nations? 

DAVID: Yes. One day God will judge the world, but I pray that He will intervene into the present with His justice now. Innocent people are dying at the hands of my enemies.

I pray that people will fear God while there is still opportunity. God is a universally just judge. He is also a merciful Father, with whom we can have a loving relationship with joy and praise if we but realise that we are merely human and need Him in our lives. 

The nations have fallen into the pit they dug for others. Their own feet have been caught in the trap they set. The Lord is known for his justice. The wicked are trapped by their own deeds. Quiet Interlude   (Psalm 9:15, 16 NLT)  

SKEPTIC: Now you say that it’s not God’s fault that the nations are destroyed, but their own? Isn’t this shifting the blame? After all, God destroyed them, according to your Psalm.

DAVID: The Bible speaks about reaping what we sow. Those who sow violence against God and His people reap judgement. They experience the natural consequences of their choices sooner or later. 

In Aussie (Australian) terms, it’s the “boomerang” principle. It is true that God executes judgment, and also true that people are responsible for the consequences of the choices they make. Both principles are woven together to form the truth. It’s worth pondering.

Some people will never know God’s love and will never know Him as the God of salvation; they will only know Him as the God of judgment because of their choices.

Other people will come to know God personally because of a consideration of His judgment. They run to His offer of salvation (see POSB commentary) and come to know His love personally.

“The wicked will go down to the grave. This is the fate of all the nations who ignore God.” (Psalm 9:17, NLT)

SKEPTIC: That’s exactly what I am talking about. Not only the wicked but anyone who doesn’t believe, dies.

DAVID: Yes, sooner or later. Death in the Bible always speaks of separation or being cut off. Physical death is separation of the soul and spirit from the body. Spiritual death is separation of a person from fulfilling the purposes of God and from a relationship with God, because of our sin. 

You can be alive physically but dead spiritually (separated from God). Many have died physically but are alive spiritually (in relationship with God in heaven). Many have died physically and are dead spiritually (and remain separated from God) because of their own choices. Which is why God is patient. 

PASTOR ROSS: 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.”

This is still true. God’s righteous character does not ignore sin as if it didn’t exist. His justice requires a price for sin. In order that His justice could be satisfied and we could be forgiven, God gave His Son as the sacrifice for our sin.

The POSB commentary expresses this well, “God’s redemption is available to all, but it is effective only for those who repent and receive Christ as Savior and Lord.”

Pastor Ross 

Is God just…? © Image by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 9:11 – IS GOD CRUEL, VIOLENT, UNJUST AND INTOLERANT? – Part 5

I was interested to read the take on Psalm 9 from “The Skeptics Annotated Bible”. I was a little shocked by the rather ruthless emojis representing God as cruel, violent, unjust and intolerant, and a statement about this verse. It said, “If you pray to God, he will kill your enemies and destroy cities for you”. I wonder what David would say in conversation with this Skeptic. 

DAVID: Psalm 9:11 (NLT) says, “Sing praises to the Lord who reigns in Jerusalem. Tell the world about His unforgettable deeds.”  

SKEPTIC: Unforgettable alright. You pray and He annihilates your enemies.

DAVID: I pray to God who will not forget the cry of those who my enemies have annihilated. God alone knows the details of the crimes of my enemies and He is just. 

In the meantime I will encourage the oppressed to sing songs of praises to God who has not forgotten them.

SKEPTIC: So you declare the destruction of people you call your enemies as a good thing? You even sing songs about it.

DAVID: I declare the salvation of the Lord for those who believe in Him. I declare that God does not forget those who are oppressed. 

My enemies are not merely objects of God’s annihilation, but I call all people to share in the blessing of knowing God personally, and I celebrate both God’s love and His justice. My Psalm says in verses 12-13 “For He who avenges murder cares for the helpless. He does not ignore the cries of those who suffer. Lord, have mercy on me. See how my enemies torment me. Snatch me back from the jaws of death.”   

SKEPTIC: That’s exactly what I am talking about. You say God is your Avenger.

DAVID: Are you really criticising me for asking God to deliver me from persecution and death? 

SKEPTIC: No, but I am saying God is like an assassin that you have personally hired to do your work.

DAVID: How God avenges the murder of my people by ruthless and evil people, is best left to Him. I am asking for God’s mercy on me. He alone is just and fair. 

I do not deserve God’s mercy, but by grace, He has given it to me as a gift. Should I remain alive, it will only give me more incentive to declare God’s grace and mercy and salvation to those who trust in Him. That’s why I prayed in verse 14 “Save me so I can praise You publicly at Jerusalem’s gates, so I can rejoice that you have rescued me.” 

PASTOR ROSS: This is still the basis of the gospel cry, “Save me, Lord, not because I deserve it but because of Your grace.” 

The Bible says all have sinned and deserve to pay the price of spiritual separation from God, but Jesus died a cruel death on the Cross as a sacrifice for our sin. He is the only One who came to save us. He offers us the free gift of Eternal Life to those who will accept it. 

God says in Isaiah 43:11-12 (NLT), “I, yes I, am the Lord, and there is no other Savior. First I predicted your rescue, then I saved you and proclaimed it to the world. No foreign god has ever done this. You are witnesses that I am the only God,” says the Lord.”

To be continued… Read Part 6

Pastor Ross

Is God unjust? © Image by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 9:9-10 – IS GOD CRUEL, VIOLENT, UNJUST AND INTOLERANT? – Part 4

I was interested to read the take on Psalm 9 from “The Skeptics Annotated Bible”. I was a little shocked by the rather ruthless emojis representing God as cruel, violent, unjust and intolerant, and a statement about this verse. It said, “If you pray to God, he will kill your enemies and destroy cities for you”. I wonder what David would say in conversation with this Skeptic. 

DAVID: Did you read all of my Psalm. Verse 9-10 reads, “The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. ”    

I thank God that He shields and protects me when I am oppressed and that He is my refuge when I go through times of trouble. He cares for me. He is my safest refuge, above all others, when my extremity of circumstances meets His Sovereignty.

SKEPTIC: He shelters you perhaps, but you are saying that He destroys others.

DAVID: What I am saying is that God is a shelter to anyone who trusts in Him. The word I have used here which you translate as Shelter literally means High place: a place where enemies cannot reach, or see or attack. I am imagining a high cave concealed in a mountain. I am secure in my relationship with God. 

Like any believer of your age, I can be secure from anxious thoughts or insecurities, secure from past and future sinfulness because of what Jesus has accomplished on the Cross. That’s why I wrote in verse 10, “Those who know Your name trust in You, for You, O Lord, do not abandon those who search for You.”

SKEPTIC: So your trust grows when you escape from your enemies or whenever God annihilates them?

DAVID: Knowing God’s Name means, in your language, means “learning about God’s Character by seeing Him at work in our lives”. The more my faith grows, the more I experience Him at work in my life. Perhaps I simply notice He has been at work in my life all along. I always experience His love even when, at times, I see His righteous acts of justice over my enemies. 

SKEPTIC: Are you saying that when God wipes out a nation that He is expressing His love?

DAVID: Justice exercised without love is not really justice. It really would be, as you describe it, cruel. And you or I are not capable of such love to be able to judge with that kind of absolute fairness. 

All I know is that from my point of view, God will not abandon me and I seek Him with all my heart. I may go through some tough times but He will never leave me nor forsake me. 

SKEPTIC: So even though you have tough times, you still think God is a God of love? Even though He doesn’t protect you from trouble you still think He loves you?

DAVID: I agree with Paul in your New Testament who says in Romans 8:35-39, “Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? … No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

To be continued…

Is God cruel, unjust, intolerant and violent? Stay with me, and read Part 5

Pastor Ross

Is God unjust? © Image by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 9:3 – IS GOD CRUEL, VIOLENT, UNJUST AND INTOLERANT? – Part 3

Psalm 9:5,6 (NLT) says, “You have rebuked the nations and destroyed the wicked; You have erased their names forever.  The enemy is finished, in endless ruins; the cities You uprooted are now forgotten.”   

I was interested to read the take on Psalm 9:3 from “The Skeptics Annotated Bible”. I was a little shocked by the rather ruthless emojis representing God as cruel, violent, unjust and intolerant, and a statement about this verse. It said, “If you pray to God, he will kill your enemies and destroy cities for you”. I wonder what David would say in conversation with this Skeptic. 

SKEPTIC: So, according to you, your enemies are annihilated forever by God. You just pray and they die.

DAVID: No, not at all. There is more to it than that. My words in Psalm 9:4 (NLT) say “For You have judged in my favor; from Your throne You have judged with fairness.”   

I am humbled when the Lord judges in my favour. He does not always do that. When He does, it indicates that my thoughts are lining up with His thoughts. This is not always so. I find myself praying, 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. (Psalm 139:23-24 NLT)

I ask Him to give me His perspective, from His Word, not my often twisted version of the way things should be based upon flawed social and cultural norms.

I hope He will also give me the grace to disagree with others firmly when I need to, without being a jerk or desiring their destruction. My Psalm is not simply talking about those who have a disagreement with me, but those who are trying to kill me and my people.

SKEPTIC: Aren’t you concerned that this Psalm will give a wrong impression of you? 

DAVID: Let me be less concerned with what others misunderstand about me, or whether others treat me fairly or not, or even whether they exclude me or not, and more concerned about what God thinks is fair. I want to portray God for who He is – not only loving, but just. Let me be more concerned about what He says than what others say. 

I am like Paul in your New Testament Bible. In Galatians 1:10 (NLT), Paul says, Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.”

Save me from self-pity, and wanting to get back at people who seek to mistreat me for what I believe and who I believe in. I leave that in God’s hands. He knows how to fight His own battles without my sin getting in the way, so I pray that He will give me the right words when I need them and the respect for others who disagree. I pray that He will help me know when to stand up and be counted without being self-righteous. 

Only He knows what is right and just. It’s not so much that He is on my side, but I give thanks for the privilege of allowing me to be on His.

SKEPTIC: But your words in Psalm 9:5,6 (NLT) are so severe when you speak about God. You say, “You have rebuked the nations and destroyed the wicked; you have erased their names forever.  The enemy is finished, in endless ruins; the cities You uprooted are now forgotten.” 

PASTOR ROSS: I can only agree with the Skeptic. David’s words are severe when speaking about the justice and the severe judgment of God. His words are shocking. Too few people find them shocking enough to take them seriously.

Psalm 9 makes me concerned for the direction our own country is going. We seem to be making some wicked decisions and placing them in law, laws that contradict God’s Word. My heart cries out to God to prompt us to turn our country towards Him rather than this continual movement away from God. 

I pray that He will rebuke and erase the wickedness from our country and that we would respond in repentance. I pray that He will protect the generation of my grandchildren from the consequences of any wicked lawmakers or social engineers who choose to continually erode the principles of the Bible. 

I pray that He would help me not to be involved in destroying our society with such wicked intent, but actively involved in His loving, fair and just purposes. I don’t want to be deceived by clever words and deception that ultimately applauds what is evil and deplores what is right and just and valuable.  

My prayer is that God will bring His salvation to our lost generation. May we not be erased in the pages of history because of our defiance of God; so insignificant that we don’t deserve more than a passing reference to our demise.

Even before David’s time as King, so many of the nations, once real people who made real choices and a wicked name for themselves, were destroyed so utterly that in the aftermath of such destruction, we cannot even dig up the remnants of one city. Yes, their cities were destroyed, but more tragically, those who chose to stand against God were utterly wiped out to the point of being entirely forgotten by history itself. 

I take the words of this Psalm to heart. Psalm 9:7-8 (NLT) says, “But the Lord reigns forever, executing judgment from His throne…”   Long after this generation perishes, He will reign. Long after this Government is out of office, He will still exercise His authority.  “He will judge the world with justice and rule the nations with fairness.”   

Paul expresses this idea when He speaks to the Athenians about who God is in Acts 17:24-31

“He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since He is Lord of heaven and earth, … He Himself gives life and breath to everything, and He satisfies every need… He created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and He determined their boundaries.

“His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward Him and find Him—though He is not far from any one of us. For in Him we live and move and exist… ‘We are His offspring.’ … “God … commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to Him. For He has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man He has appointed (ie Christ), and He proved to everyone who this is by raising Him from the dead.”

To be continued… 

IS GOD CRUEL, VIOLENT, UNJUST AND INTOLERANT? You decide as we look at some other parts of this Psalm. Read Part 4

Psalm 9:7-8 – IS GOD CRUEL, VIOLENT, UNJUST AND INTOLERANT? – Part 2

Is God Cruel and Unfair? © Image by Julie Cochrane

Psalm 9:7-8 (NLT) says,But the Lord reigns forever, executing judgment from His throne. He will judge the world with justice and rule the nations with fairness.”

I was interested to read the take on Psalm 9 from “The Skeptics Annotated Bible”. I was a little shocked by the rather ruthless emojis representing God as cruel, violent, unjust and intolerant, and a statement about this verse. It said, “If you pray to God, he will kill your enemies and destroy cities for you”. I wonder what David would say in conversation with this Skeptic. 

SKEPTIC: What gives your God the right to judge anyone? He’s supposed to support you, not execute judgment on people.

DAVID: I am a little confused here. Are you really saying that God Most High, higher than any authority on earth should not “judge the world in righteousness; that He should not execute judgment for the peoples with equity” (verse 8)? 

SKEPTIC: I am simply questioning a God who would destroy people. 

DAVID: No, you are questioning God’s authority to make righteous decisions based on His perfect character. You Are you saying that God Most High must have your values, your ideas of right and wrong, your standards? Must He do as you want Him to do, as your personal flunky? 

Let me ask you the questions that you are asking of God. “Are God’s plans higher than your plans, and if He is God Most High, then does He have the right of sovereign choice rather than simply obeying you and always agreeing with you, as a Houseboy Creator, Flunky God, Slave almighty. Are you responsible to God Most High or is He responsible to you?”

SKEPTIC: Strange, that’s what I am saying about you. It seems to me that God is responsible to you. You are the one praying that God will kill your enemies.

DAVID: Just as you can’t see that I am asking God to respond with Justice concerning my enemies, I can’t see why you demand of God Most High that He not judge people for going their own way, without reference to Him? 

My Psalm says God is absolutely just, in which case it is disastrous to stand against Him or His purposes?

SKEPTIC: He seems like a harsh God to me.

DAVID: Perhaps you have not known His love. I know Him as a God of Love AND a God of Justice. His purposes are designed for life to be lived to the full. In your New Testament Bible, John 10:10 (NASB) Jesus says, The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

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.”

I admit, I am biased towards God after all these years as His follower. I don’t fully understand those who defy God Most High in their hearts, words and actions. I would rather do life with God than without Him. 

I regard life as a precious gift from God and I am here but a moment. I thank God that in that moment I can serve His purposes and stand in awe in His presence, and have a choice to live life to the full. Physical life is His gift and spiritual life is a gift and a choice. 

I choose life. 

SKEPTIC: But you don’t choose life for your enemies.

DAVID: I do not enforce my standards on my enemies. My Psalm says that the intimidating adversaries of spirituality continue to retreat in God’s presence. I believe that anyone and anything that seeks to steal the valuable resources for living spiritual life based on God’s Word will ultimately withdraw, give way, recoil, run and  fail. 

I have been invited to live life as an overcomer in a world that increasingly rejects and repudiates the claims of the Bible. I claim the words of your New Testament Bible which says in Philippians 4:12-13 (NLT), … For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” 

SKEPTICS: Well, we don’t have enemies trying to kill us today.

DAVID: Perhaps you have not been looking at your world. Does the author of this blog have anything to say on this.

PASTOR ROSS: According to https://www.heraldsun.com.au/blogs/rita-panahi/christianity-is-the-most-persecuted-religion-in-the-world/news-story/fccadd1f30733117c2d9dd338a27e7cc Christianity is the most persecuted religion on earth at the moment. I can’t help but think that the enemies of Christianity today are not so much the Skeptics like yourself, who are at least willing to consider the case for Christ, but the social engineers in our Governments, Universities and Schools seeking to eradicate any semblance of our Christian heritage from our society. Those who see the Bible as hate speech. This is a startling change of values in our society which I believe will lead to disastrous consequences, perhaps for generations to come. 

I love speaking with genuine skeptics, but increasingly, the social engineers of our society,  with an evangelical zeal, berate Christianity today, preferring followers of Christ to be seen and not heard, silenced from any platform that may challenge their agenda. 

It is no wonder that Romans 12:1-3 says, “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you … Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

Faith that is personal is also faith that it lived out in public. I pray that the Lord would help me to continue to develop my personal faith. Hopefully, without arrogance, I will privately and publicly respond to the principles of the Bible with confidence. May my faith in Christ be a witness in the public square and a gauge for others to consider the claims of Christ and that others will truly understand the awesome character of God. 

I claim the truth of Romans 1:16 (NLT) when it declares, “For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes …”

To be continued…

Is God Cruel, Violent, Unjust and Intolerant? If a believer prays will he automatically be able to curse his or her enemies with death? Read Part 3.

Pastor Ross

Is God cruel, violent, unjust and intolerant? © Image created by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 9:3 – IS GOD CRUEL, VIOLENT, UNJUST AND INTOLERANT? – Part 1

Psalm 9:3 (NLT) says, “My enemies retreated; they staggered and died when You (God Most High) appeared.”   

I was interested to read the take on Psalm 9:3 from “The Skeptics Annotated Bible”. I was a little shocked by the rather ruthless emojis representing God as cruel, violent, unjust and intolerant, and a statement about this verse. It said, “If you pray to God, he will kill your enemies and destroy cities for you”. I wonder what David would say in conversation with this Skeptic. 

DAVID: I have to wonder – is this how people see God when they are reading my Psalm? Is this what people think about God? If it is, then perhaps you have misunderstood me altogether.

SKEPTIC: I don’t think I have misunderstood you. You say your enemies staggered and died in the presence of God (verse 3), that He rebukes and judges people (verse 5), completely erasing them from the earth (verse 6), that this is the fate of all nations who ignore God (verse 17). You actually ask God to judge them (verse 19). 

DAVID: Strange. You have not looked at the full context of my Psalm to see what I am really trying to express about God?

I notice that you have conveniently forgotten that I describe God as One who is a shelter for the oppressed (verse 9), does not abandon people (verse 10), cares for the helpless (verse 12), saves and rescues (verse 14), and has mercy (verse 13). He does marvelous things (verse 1), and reigns forever (verse 7), In fact, He is the only One truly able to judge nations with justice and fairness (verse 4), yet there are some mere mortals who have chosen to defy Him (verse 19-20). 

SKEPTIC: Yet you can just pray to God and ask Him to wipe out people with complete impunity? How can you believe in a God like that.

DAVID: I find great joy in my relationship with God (verse 2) and so I began my Psalm with praise. God is not just anyone. He is God Most High (verse 2), higher in authority than anyone we may encounter on earth.

Impunity hardly applies to a just and fair God. It is not God that needs our impunity. Nowhere in my Psalm do I indicate that God is cruel, violent, intolerant and unjust, as you describe Him. 

My Psalm describes a God who is perfectly Just, not stupid or oblivious to what is going on around Him and He is only One who can respond appropriately in His own way and His own time, always doing what is right. 

Clearly my Psalm indicates that any person is free to defy God, but why would they think that putting their heads in the spiritual sand will somehow mean that a just and fair God will simply stand by. There are consequences for any of our choices, not only with other people but also with God. 

SKEPTIC: So you are OK with Him wiping out your enemies completely?

DAVID: I would prefer that I didn’t have enemies, but I do. By the way, my enemies are characterised by all the things that you attribute to God – cruelty, violence, intolerance and injustice. 

In this Psalm you can obviously see that my enemies are described as wicked (verse 5), oppressive (verse 9), cause trouble (verse 9), hate people (verse 13), appear to be flaunting any form of justice (verse 16), forget the needy (verse 18), destroy hope in people and afflict them (verse 18, 12). My enemies want me, and anyone who follows God, dead. The equivalent in your time is perhaps Isis or the Taliban.

SKEPTIC: So you pray that God will destroy them?

DAVID: I recognise that anyone who tries to stand against God Most High will fail. And yes, I pray for justice to prevail. 

I do pray to God. With all my heart (verse 1). But my prayer is a prayer of praise, not just an anxious cry for help. I am not seeking to be an arrogant man wanting to cause death and destruction to all who disagree with me. 

SKEPTIC: But you clearly think that God is on your side?

DAVID: No. Just the opposite. God is not my servant, like some Genie in a bottle. I am God’s servant. God judges with fairness (verse 4,8) and I do not anticipate God will simply stand aside while my enemies come to annihilate His servants. 

To be continued….

Is God Cruel, Violent, Unjust and Intolerant? What gives Him the right to think He can demand things of me? What gives Him the right to judge me? Read part 2.

Pastor Ross