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Blame or Excuse? © Ross Cochrane

Genesis 34 – SEND IN SOMEONE TO BLAME

Genesis 34 reads like a Newspaper article on terrorism.

A local prince, Shechem, seizes Dinah, the daughter of Jacob, and rapes her. 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 every male there, including Shechem. Meanwhile, the rest of Jacob’s sons plunder the town – everything they can lay their hands on. They also take all their little children and wives and lead them away as captives.

With such a terrible story, I was interested to read some commentary on this part of the Bible. Some commentators actually seek to defend Jacob’s sons saying they performed an act of judgment sanctioned by God for their murderous acts. Other commentators blame Dinah for what happens to her. She is at fault for carelessly placing herself in danger of being raped. Some blame Jacob for settling in a pagan neighborhood for the sake of doing business and putting his daughter in harm’s way by not escorting her wherever she went. Still others blame Hamor, Shechem’s father, for pandering to his son and not providing him with a moral compass.

But why try to excuse the actions of murderers who misuse God’s covenant for their crimes? Why try to blame the victim of rape? Why try to blame fathers for the crimes of their sons? Such distorted commentary does not seem to me to be helpful in finding the message here. In hindsight, we can always point the finger.

JACOB, you should have….

Genesis 33:17-20 says Jacob settles in Succoth and builds a house so he obviously stays for some time. Later he travels to Shechem in the land of Canaan and sets up camp outside the town. He buys a plot of land from the family of Hamor for 100 pieces of silver, again obviously intending to build a house and settle down with his family, and do business in the town. He builds an altar to God to declare his allegiance, a witness to his faith in God.

So is Jacob to blame for what happens? Is it wrong to settle down in a foreign place with foreign customs and moral values very different to ours and expect that God will protect us as long as we state that we are Christians? What responsibility does a parent have in the supervision of children?

Apparently, if Jacob had chosen to live in Sydney’s CBD area or Liverpool, Mount Druitt and Campbelltown, Dinah would have a higher probability of sexual assault than some other areas of Sydney. Residents in these areas report dozens of sexual assaults each year. Does Jacob place his daughter at risk?

Australian law says “Decisions such as … where your child lives are your right and responsibility to make … Parents have a responsibility to protect their children from harm and provide safety, supervision and control.”

As a parent, Jacob provides for Dinah’s welfare – food, clothing, a place to live. But would he pass Australian laws concerning protecting her from harm and providing safety, supervision and control?

Dinah is probably between 7-9 years old. If Jacob lived in Silver Spring in the USA and let Dinah walk to her friends’ place alone, he might face criminal charges for leaving his child unsupervised. He might have Children’s Protective Services require him to sign a safety plan promising not to leave his children unsupervised. If he refused he would face criminal charges. In the light of what happened, would you like to see Jacob charged? Was Jacob’s parenting at fault?

Or is it OK for parents to allow their children to wander free range to explore the world at their own risk and learn to be street wise? Is Jacob to blame for neglecting his daughter’s safety? If he had not settled here this blot would not have occurred on the page of history and would not have interrupted the flow of the story of faith in the book of Genesis. But who can live their lives according to “What if’s” and “You should have’s”?

No word is given to justify or condemn what takes place in Genesis 34. It is simply depicted, in all its raw violence and abuse of power. No interpretation is needed. It is obvious that all have sinned and all fall far short of the glory of God, pagan’s and God followers alike. There are no heroes of faith here.

I find no mention of God in Genesis 34, only two of His institutions desecrated and used to excuse rape and murder. Religion used for criminal actions. Nothing has changed. God chooses not to speak in the midst of such perversion of His grace or is it that He is not being consulted? He looks for faith and trust, for humility and Godly dependence, but does not find it here.

Genesis 34 invites me to reflect, but not so much on my rights or even my responsibilities, not so much on the altars I build to declare to the world my faith, not so much on my distorted views of justice and revenge, not so much on excusing or blaming and not even on hedging myself and my family from from harm without any willingness to take reasonable risks. It simply invites me to reflect on and be confronted by what happens when human life is devalued and lawlessness is given free reign without any reference to God.  

Genesis 34 reminds me of the risk of life where I can never predict what will happen next. This is not about regret and what I should or should not have done in my life, but a reminder of how much I need God for each step. It reminds me to reflect on the importance of listening to God so I can gain better perspective. Really listening. Listening through the noise and confusion of my world. And yes, I can choose not to abuse, accuse or excuse. I can choose to seek for the whisper of His still, small voice and obey. His promise is that I will be able to navigate the path ahead with discernment and apply wisdom.

Pastor Ross 

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Right Wrong © Ross Cochrane

Genesis 34 – CAVEAT ON DEPRAVITY

Immorality no longer lingers in the shadows but openly parades in the streets in the guise of normality. Violence and lawlessness no longer seek to hide around corners but carry knives and guns and bombs shouting out their chanted slogans in the guise of justice.

Looking around our world after I read Genesis 34 in the Bible is disturbing. I see we live in a world that seeks to justify it’s sinful behaviors, labeling them as cultural and religious norms and seeking to impose their aberrant standards with unbending severity on anyone who doesn’t agree.

Christ-followers are often regarded as being out of touch and negative about our world, but they, in turn, regard many in our society as blind to what is evil and good. The principles found in the Bible which form the basic standards of morality and values on which society thrives are ignored all too readily.

Along with the pristine beauty and wonders of parts of our world, I must admit, I do see a darker side in the nature of our society. Politicians pander to the latest sinful fads and religious leaders, like cowered dogs, are unwilling even to debate our changing values. Unchecked in News broadcasts I am fed an ever increasing diet of violence and horror hand-in-hand with a political correctness that seeks to sugar coat our shame and justify our sinful desires.

I find it a challenge to live the life for which I was created. At times I am tempted to water down what the Bible clearly states to be sin as I am confronted by the entanglement of cultural webs of expectation in our world. They are so perplexing and often so sinister it becomes a constant test of discernment to find the ethical way ahead.

Perhaps nothing has really changed for thousands of years since this is also the dilemma of Jacob and his sons in Genesis 34.

Getting away from the greed and control of his uncle Laban, Jacob has learned some lessons about deception, but he is soon to learn that the very worst of his traits in deceptiveness have been passed on to his children. Jacob has moved from Laban’s slow boiling pot of sinful exploitation to an exploding cauldron of immorality and violence in the place where he has settled.

This story makes me wonder how I would respond. It is not a story I particularly like, even though I am grateful that the Bible is brutally truthful. Immoral sexual deviancy and unchecked violence are rampant enough on the News without being confronted by it again in the book of Genesis.

Perhaps that’s why the Bible is an even more important mirror into which I must gaze than social trends. It will enable me perspective to honestly assess the developing tumors of cultural depravity and avoid the quagmires of aberrant behaviors and practices to which I, as a member of humanity, am equally susceptible. I cannot ignore the clear standards of the Bible, but how should I apply these standards?

So I embark on this chapter with an initial response of revulsion, avenging justice and shame by what I see happening. Caveat on depravity.

Pastor Ross

Extraction © Ross Cochrane

Extraction © Ross Cochrane

Psalm 3:1-7 – HOW CAN I EXPERIENCE PEACE IN TIMES OF PRESSURE? – Part 6 – Prayer, Faith and Victory

In Psalm 3, David invites you, through his example, to remind yourself of what the Bible says about God

c. God Answers Your Prayers (Psalm 3:4)

Apparently, the American President Abraham Lincoln said, “I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.”

In Psalms 3:2, 4 (NLT) David says “So many are saying, “God will never rescue him!” Interlude … “I cried out to the Lord, and He answered me from His holy mountain. Interlude”  

It seems that David’s enemies, led by his own son and those whom he once trusted, are trying to defame David’s faith and vilify David with denunciations and discouragement and blame, but rather than waste a response on these unrestrained voices of doom, David cries out to the Lord. He is not silenced by the enemy and God is not silenced by their malignant allegations and blasphemous presumptions.

The Ark of the Covenant, where God chose to reveal His presence may still be in Jerusalem’s holy mountain, but David hears heavens voice and experiences the presence of God despite being compelled to flee from his own son’s army into the wilderness. He prays and receives God’s answers while he is running away from those who once gathered with him in supposed worship.

Hebrews 4:14-16 (NLT) says “… 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.”

1 John 5:13-15 (NLT) says, “… we are confident that He hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases Him. And since we know He hears us when we make our requests, we also know that He will give us what we ask for.” 

d. God Watches Over You (Psalm 3:5)

Psalm 3:5 says “I lay down and slept, yet I woke up in safety, for the Lord was watching over me.” 

Grace meets my vulnerability as I sleep. Love dispels my fears with His peace. I may choose to be anxious but it’s better to trust that even Jesus asleep in my boat is enough. His presence is all I need to have peace. His trust in the Father is mine (Mark 4:39). He calms the tumultuous waves.

In Matthew 11:28 (NLT) Jesus says, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT) says “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

e. God Gives You Victory Over Impossible Circumstances (Psalm 3:6-7)

Psalm 3:6-7 says “I am not afraid of ten thousand enemies who surround me on every side. Arise, O Lord! Rescue me, my God! Slap all my enemies in the face! Shatter the teeth of the wicked! Victory comes from You, O Lord. May You bless Your people. Interlude”  

This is violent teeth breaking language. Those who know the horrors of war are familiar with such terms. He uses common expressions of his day. I need “Slap the enemy in the face” kind of courage to face my circumstances head on and “Shatter the teeth of the wicked” kind of victory against impossible odds.

Those of us who have never faced war back away from such forceful language and prefer less callous dentistry, but David asks for victory using warrior expressions, terms that describe much less than his enemies desire for him. They don’t only want to slap him on the face and break his teeth.

The New Testament describes our spiritual battle and the champion of our faith. 1 John 5:4-5 (NLT) says “For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith. And who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God.” 

Hebrews 13:5-6 (NLT) says, “… For God has said,  “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” So we can say with confidence,  “The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?”  

In Mark 9:23 (NLT) Jesus says, “Anything is possible if a person believes.”

Psalm 3 invites me to remind myself of what I know about God. He is MY SHIELD – taking the brunt of the blows that come against me in life, MY IDENTITY – in Him I find out who I really am, MY FOCUS in times of need – answering my prayers, MY SECURITY – watching over me, MY VICTORY over impossible circumstances, MY BLESSING in life, My PEACE – peace with God means I can experience peace in whatever circumstances I face.

The invitation of Psalm 3 in the light of the New Testament is to come to know real peace despite pressure as we get to know God personally through Christ.

Pastor Ross

Identity Theft - Photo by Rachel Bennett and Ross Cochrane

IDENTITY THEFT – Photo by Rachel Bennett and adjusted by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 3 – HOW CAN I EXPERIENCE PEACE IN TIMES OF PRESSURE? – Part 5

Identity Shield

He needs an Identity Shield, a service that will provide him with total protection to keep his name and identity safe. He needs lost wallet protection and a $1 million plus insurance policy to cover costs incurred due to loss. For David, it needs to be a mobile service because he is presently on the run. Well, maybe David doesn’t need all those optional extra’s but his identity is certainly being threatened by a malicious source.

Well, maybe King David in Psalm 3 doesn’t need all those optional extra’s but his identity is certainly being threatened by a malicious source.

Absalom, David’s own son, is wanting to take over his father’s identity as King; the lot. If he lived today he’d want his private phone number, social security number, address and credit card information, bank account information and medical insurance. He wants to be King, live in the palace, change the photograph and signature on the official passport and have it all; a whole kingdom; wine, women, wealth and worth.

Absalom’s scam was subtle but effective. He began Phishing for information about David’s kingdom, winning people’s hearts and allegiance. He Shoulder Surfed the crowd with deceitful charm, looking to undermine David’s security codes and Skimmed for information useful in orchestrating a successful rebellion and takeover.

Is David grieving over identity theft when He writes Psalm 3?

In Psalm 3:3 (NLT) David He prays and says to God, “You are my glory, the One who holds my head high.” The glory of being King of Israel had been ripped away from David when he fled from Jerusalem. His cultural identity had been questioned big time. He feels the grief of his loss deeply.

2 Samuel 15:30 (NLT) says “David walked up the road to the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went. His head was covered and his feet were bare as a sign of mourning. And the people who were with him covered their heads and wept as they climbed the hill.” 

That doesn’t seem to be much hope. How can he be grieving and then say, “But You, O Lord, are my shield; You are my glory, the One who holds my head high”? (Psalm 3:3).

How can you have peace in times of pressure? 

It seems David has peace despite the loss of the trappings of power and the discouragement of having to leave Jerusalem.

3. REMIND YOURSELF OF WHAT YOU KNOW ABOUT GOD

It seems that God is all the glory David needs. There is a spiritual battle to be won and God is his shield. He worships the King of glory and he will reign as King by allowing that glory to flow through him, despite his circumstances. It is enough to have Him in his life. His spiritual identity is untouched.

a. God Is My Shield – He takes the blows in the midst of my spiritual battles.

b. God Is My Identity – I find my identity in Christ. He lifts up my head when I lose perspective.

Absalom may look like him, talk like him and masquerade as him but he does not have the identity found in God of a king; the calling of a king, the anointing of a king, the heart of a king. His own identity is blurred and marred by his sin. God lifts David’s head up high when all seems lost outwardly.

When I am cowered by my regrets, worries, difficult circumstances, opposing voices of culture and individuals who seek to devalue my faith in Christ, I remind myself that God lifts up my head. He not only encourages me but He personifies encouragement in me. He not only forgives me. He is my forgiveness. He not only identifies with me. He is my identity.

Absalom tries to masquerade with David’s identity. David may have temporarily been dethroned but God is still on the throne and sovereign. While God is still on the throne then David is still King. While God is still on the throne of my life, then my identity is found in Him.

When I face the pressures of life and my identity is threatened, the invitation of Psalm 3 is to allow God to be the lifter of my head and I am reminded that He knows who I am better than I know myself. Since my identity is found in Christ I can be at peace.

Pastor Ross

P.S By the way, speaking of identity theft, I’ve said before that I’ve been searching through Christ’s mail to source His ID; His statements, offers, distinguishing bits of information, etc. It’s there for all to see. After reading what He posts, I am able to get His personal data. It’s quite a revelation.

I remember that time in my own life when I first came to a knowledge of who Jesus was. I didn’t have to search through His trash. He had none, but I did have to search through mine. In doing so I found out about my own shortcomings and longed to change my identity. It happened on a Christmas day. It was an “Ah Ha!” moment. I discovered identifying evidence of who Jesus is. That revelation changed my life forever. Jeremiah 29:13 (NLT) says “If you look for Me wholeheartedly, you will find Me.”

An exchange took place that day as I surrendered my old life to Him. I was born again and I took on a new identity. I exchanged my sin for His righteousness. I didn’t work for it, earn it or deserve it in any way. But it was credited to my account. I was living on His credit card.

My malicious software (sin) stole His life when He died on the Cross and grace gave me mine. He paid the price for me. He picked up the tab at the Cross. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV) says “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” Galatians 2:20 (NLT) says “… It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” “… the person who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.” (1 Corinthians 6:17 NLT).

Ephesians 2:10 (NLT) says “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has CREATED US ANEW in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.”  1 John 5:11 (NLT) says “… this life is in His Son.” 2 Corinthians 5:13-15 (NLT) says“…He died for everyone so that those who receive HIS NEW LIFE will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.” 

Barabbas wasn’t the only one who was exchanged for Jesus on the day of His crucifixion. I was too! Jesus paid the punishment for my sin. The innocent Son of God was indicted on my behalf. Jesus died but the exciting thing is that He invites us to exchange His righteousness for our sin. He has given us freely His identity and we have the resources of heaven at our disposal. Ephesians 1:3-5 (NLT) says that God “…has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are UNITED WITH CHRIST.” Philippians 1:20-21 (NIV) says “… For to me, TO LIVE IS CHRIST and to die is gain.” IDENTITY THEFT? Not really. Identity exchange. He freely offers us the identity for which we are created. 

Pastor Ross

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The Magain (small round shield to absorb the blows of the sword) © by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 3:1-3 – HOW CAN I EXPERIENCE PEACE IN TIMES OF PRESSURE? – Part 4

Some of his friends had joined a terrorist organization and were intent on punishing him because their religion told them that God had abandoned him as an infidel and he didn’t deserve to live. What has changed in our world?

At the time of the writing of Psalm 3, King David is running from his ruthless son Absalom who has gathered an army to defeat him. David writes in his journal,

“O Lord, I have so many enemies; so many are against me. So many are saying, “God will never rescue him!” Interlude” (Psalm 3:1-2 NLT).

Many people in Israel justified their own betrayal by saying, “God has left King David because he has sinned so badly.” Your friends and your enemies become obvious in times adversity.

David doesn’t try to defend himself. Firstly, David is honest with God about the pressures he faces and about the ridicule from those he once trusted.

But David finds peace in the midst of turmoil. In the light of his past regrets and present adversity, where does he find the resources for peace?

When others abandon you and question your faith or God’s willingness to help you, what is your response? Like David, you can…

  1. REMIND YOURSELF OF WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT GOD

What do you know of God? David’s images are those with which he relates strongly.

a. God Is My Shield

Psalm 3:3 says, “But You, O Lord, are a shield around me; You are my glory, the One who holds my head high.” 

Nathan prophesied that in 2 Samuel 12:10 (NLT) “From this time on, your family will live by the sword because you have despised Me by taking Uriah’s wife to be your own.” David is under no delusions. God says that he will always have enemies who will be out to destroy him.

The sword may come against him as a consequence of his moral failure but the Lord will be his shield. God is your shield (Psalm 3:3) when all other shields are inadequate.

Apparently, there are two kinds of shields used by Hebrew warriors. According to the POSB commentary, one was a large rectangular shield which the soldier could hide behind and be covered. The other was a small, hand-held shield which was used to fend off arrows and absorb sword strikes. It is the small, hand-held shield that David is speaking of in Psalm 3.

That means that in Psalm 3, David is saying in effect,“The sword will come against me. That is inevitable. But the Lord is my shield. The Lord will not just protect me from being struck by the sword, but will also personally take the blows intended for me. He will personally absorb the impact.” David knows that this is a spiritual battle that he fights and however inadequate his small round sword may be in the midst of open warfare, God has absorbed the blows of his sins and will shield him from the blows of the evil one. He will face this situation he has brought on himself but will not be robbed of forgiveness.

Isaiah 53 reminds us that the Jesus Christ is our shield. Jesus personally absorbed the blows of sin for us when He died on the Cross.

Isaiah 53:3-12 (NLT) says, “He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief … Yet it was our weaknesses He carried; it was our sorrows that weighed Him down. And we thought His troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for His own sins! But He was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed … the Lord laid on Him the sins of us all.

David was face to face with a situation he had brought on himself and Nathan warned him that he would have to live by the sword as a consequence, yet God was intercepting each blow of the spiritual battle and he was at peace.

Like a shield, Christ absorbed the painful blows of my sin. He is my shield in the midst of the spiritual battles I face. What about you? (More about this later).

Pastor Ross

Sword and Shield – better proportions and lighting

A post shared by Ross Cochrane (@pastorross1) on

The Sword Shall not Depart from your House © Ross Cochrane

 

Psalm 3 – HOW CAN I EXPERIENCE PEACE IN TIMES OF PRESSURE?

The Sword Shall not depart from you – Part 3

2 Samuel reads like a Starwars prequel to Psalm 3. Luke Skywalker had some issues with his Dad, Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi. So does Absalom.

What happened to make Absalom hate his father so much?

2 Samuel tells the story of how Absalom had a beautiful sister whose name was Tamar. When Amnon raped Tamar, King David did nothing. Perhaps that’s when Absalom began to hate his own father and lost his faith in God.

Absalom was not about to sit around and do nothing. Two years later, his simmering rage against Amnon had not been assuaged. So he plotted revenge.

Absalom invited Amnon to a harvest feast and then murdered him. He escaped to live with his grandfather, Talmai, King of Geshur. David does nothing to get him back or hold him to account for his crime.

Why does David let Absalom get away with murder?  

Well, perhaps David’s own conscience plays a part in his decision-making. Is he reluctant to act because of his own sin of adultery and murder?

David’s life moves from a soap opera to a murder mystery to a Starwars premake. David had slept with Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba. But worse still, to cover up his sin, he had murdered her husband Uriah by putting him in the thick of battle without support. Perhaps these sins made him inept when it came to disciplining his sons.

David confesses his sins bitterly when confronted by Nathan the prophet, but Nathan prophesies that “The sword shall not depart from your house” and this prophecy was finding fulfillment in the most horrible way.

Sword2

David suspects nothing when Absalom is eventually allowed to return to Jerusalem. Instead of behaving in humility to his Father, Absalom patiently and relentlessly wins the hearts of the people (2 Samuel 15:13) and stages a rebellion.

WHY DID DAVID WRITE THIS PSALM?

With all this emotion and action spinning around in the background and threatening another episode, Psalm 3 begins to take on a new meaning. It is said that David composes this Psalm when he is forced to leave Jerusalem, fleeing from Absalom’s army, as he passes by the mount of Olives. 2 Samuel 15 recounts how he weeps, with his clothes torn, and with dust on his head as a sign of his grief and shock at such a revolt. Not only his son but many people he trusted have turned against him.

Although David grieves over his son’s rebellion, somehow David finds peace during this terrible situation. This Psalm indicates that he runs FROM Absalom but INTO the arms of God. His defense from Absalom’s huge army is this prayerful Psalm.

“How do I continue to have peace in times of pressure?” David leaves me an example when I am facing circumstances I face as a consequence of my own mistakes in life.

  1. BE HONEST WITH GOD ABOUT THE PRESSURES AND THE CHALLENGES YOU ARE FACING but also, like David
  2. MAKE A DECISION TO RECOGNISE YOUR DEPENDENCE ON GOD

Terrorists, drug lords and presidents and kings only seem to get away with their sinful behavior.

Consequences and forgiveness are different. The Bible indicates that although we often face the consequences of our own sin against others, God forgives us when we honestly confess our transgressions to Him. But let’s not pretend that this forgiveness did not come at a price. Christ paid for us the supreme cost by dying for us on the Cross. The Cross pays our debt of sin and our relationship with God is restored when we place our trust in what Christ has done.

We may face consequences and pressures that directly result from our sins yet God can give us the peace we need while He deals with the mess we make at times with living. He gives us peace when we are surrounded by circumstances that are far from friendly and absorbs the blows of the enemy. (Psalm 3 has a lot more to say about this).

Pastor Ross

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Steampunk Lightsaber Created by Ross Cochrane on Paint.net . (Inspired by GC Geek at  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S6lSfOfiXHY)

Psalm 3 – HOW CAN I EXPERIENCE PEACE IN TIMES OF PRESSURE? The Darkside – Part 2

Watch King David if you want to know about pressure. When he wrote Psalm 3, he was surrounded by people who wanted to kill him. I have never faced that kind of situation.

In the book of 2 Samuel in the Bible, it tells of a rebellion against David. To be specific, it tells of Absalom’s rebellion against David. What makes it horrible is that Absalom was David’s own son.

What happened to make Absalom hate his father so much?

There are overtones here of the Starwars Trilogy. Luke Skywalker had some issues with his Dad, Darth Vader. Attacking the Death Star in an X-wing is nothing compared to the internal conflicts he faces in the final battle with Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi.

Luke says he’ll never submit to the dark side of the Force, but then again killing your Dad with a Lightsaber is not an easy thing to do.

Quantum leap back to my study. I can’t say I ever wanted to be like my Dad. Unwittingly I made a choice early in my life never to be a son. I didn’t learn from him and avoided him. I look a lot like him now and our relationship was reconciled before he died in an amazing way.

What’s all this got to do with Psalm 3? Wind back the scene to the window of 2 Samuel and you will see that Absalom never reconciles. He was an angry young man and battled all his life with issues to do with his father.

Unlike in the lightsaber episode of Starwars, it was the son, Absalom, who gave way to the “dark side” big time and not the Father, David. David refuses to face his son in battle and seeks to protect him to the end. Yet some think of David as an evil king. Why does David have so many enemies? Is he really that unlikeable?

I spoke to my friend Joyce a while ago who doesn’t know the Bible very well but even she said that she doesn’t like King David. She doesn’t like him because he committed adultery and murder. He seems to get away with it without consequences.

Is this a clue as to why King David has so many enemies? His abuse of leadership earlier in his life? Do they all feel like Joyce? Is he like so many terrorists, kings, presidents, and drug-lords who seem to get away with their sinful behavior?

To really understand why David wrote this Psalm, you have to know the prequel. It is not a pretty story and it is found in the ancient book of 2 Samuel, but you will have to wait to find out more (might as well make a trilogy from this amazing Psalm).

Pastor Ross

The Prison Within. By Ross Cochrane using MorgueFiles.com, FilterForge.organd Paint.net.

The Prison Within. © By Ross Cochrane using MorgueFiles.com, FilterForge.organd Paint.net.

Psalm 3:1 – HOW CAN I EXPERIENCE PEACE IN TIMES OF PRESSURE? Part 1

The door looked like a safe door and we were told to leave it locked all the time we were in our rented unit in Kiev. We don’t have to do that in Australia.

When we were visited by a man from the Ukrainian Mafia and his henchmen dressed as police we should not have opened the door. I admit that I felt a little afraid, but he was not really interested in us. He was the son of the person from whom we had rented and fortunately he was more intent on retrieving a jacket he had left in the house.

A friend once told us of the walls, barbed wire and alarms they had installed around their house in South Africa to remain safe. Even then they kept a gun under the pillow.

I don’t wake up thinking about my enemies. I don’t fear the intrusion of insurgent soldiers bashing down the door and firing their weapons indiscriminately at my family. I don’t know the horror of bombs and terrorism.

Christians can openly worship in Australia without fear of being ridiculed or persecuted. The pressures I face in life have not involved fighting for my life. I have no experience of the kind David faces in this Psalm. I don’t pretend to know how he feels. I hope never to experience such things and I pray for protection for those who do.

Nevertheless, I have a healthy reverence for God and a knowledge that I am in His hands. He is my faithful friend, and what I lack in experience of facing enemies, David has faced head on and can certainly answer the question better than most of us, “How do I continue to have peace in times of pressure?”

It is obvious that the Lord is also a friend to whom David can come when he feels the pressure of those around him who want him defeated and dethroned. Psalm 3 invites us with David to …

  1. BE HONEST WITH GOD ABOUT THE PRESSURES AND THE CHALLENGES YOU ARE FACING

“O Lord, I have so many enemies; so many are against me. So many are saying, “God will never rescue him!” Interlude” (Psalm 3:1-2 NLT).

He doesn’t ask “Why, Lord?” He just lays out the facts. It’s good to verbalize what is happening in our lives to God.

Sometimes I meet someone who sees themselves as an atheist, those who don’t believe in God yet when I ask if I can pray for them after my visits they say, “Yes, please do.” I encourage those who feel they have no faith to simply keep the communication lines open with God.

Psalm 3 is mirrored in the New Testament in Hebrews 4:15-16 (NLT) which says that Christ understands our weaknesses, for He faced all of the same testings we do, yet He did not sin. He, of all people, knows what it means to face the enemy, even to the point of death. It says “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.” David told God about his situation and was honest with God. I encourage you to do the same.

Pastor Ross

WreckingBallandWindow

Breaking and Smashing © Image created by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 2:12 –BREAKING AND SMASHING AT EASTER – Part 4

THE FOOLISH PLAN OF GOD

1 Corinthians 1:18-31 (NLT) says “The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God … This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength. … Christ made us right with God; He made us pure and holy, and He freed us from sin.” 

KISS THE SON

In the New Testament Psalm 2 is associated with Christ and so prophetically it invites us all to put our trust in the Son of God. The promise of salvation still stands. We love John 3:16 “For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” but remember John 3:16 is found in the context of verse 17 and 18. John 3:17-18 (NLT) says, God sent His Son into the world NOT TO JUDGE THE WORLD, BUT TO SAVE THE WORLD through Him. “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in Him. But anyone who does not believe in Him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.” 

David speaks to the rebellious kings, giving them time to come under his authority in Psalm 2:12 (NLT). He speaks of himself when he says “Submit to God’s royal Son, or he will become angry, and you will be destroyed in the midst of all your activities— for his anger flares up in an instant. But what joy for all who take refuge in him!”  

Judgment will come swiftly, but first, he offers joy and peace and refuge to those who submit to him. This is a picture of Christ in the future. God’s Royal Son.

Literally, Psalm 2:12 says “Kiss the Son.” The kiss in the ancient world was a symbol of affection and submission. In the Greek language of the New Testament the word for worship, proskuneo, means “to kiss towards. To come forward to kiss.” Worship wipes away the tears of judgment.

In John 5:22-27 (NLT), Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, those who listen to My message and believe in God who sent Me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life. … The Father has life in Himself, and He has granted that same life-giving power to His Son. And He has given Him authority to judge everyone because He is the Son of Man.” 

In John 14:6 (NLT) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Me.”

Romans 8:1 (NLT) says “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” Derek Kidner says “Take refuge in Him. There is no refuge from Him: only in Him.”

The invitation of Psalm 2 is the same as Act 16:31 (NLT), “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, …” 

Pastor Ross

Breaking and Smashing © Animation created by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 2:11 – BREAKING AND SMASHING AT EASTER – Part 3

MAKE A CHOICE

I am surprised how many people think of Christianity as just another way to heaven, all religions are the same and we are all basically good people. This notion has already been challenged on the world scene. But it has always been challenged in the Bible. Psalm 2 makes it clear that not all religions are the same and that one day, there will be a time of reckoning. The New Testament in the Bible associates this Psalm ultimately to Christ and His Second Coming as a conquering King.

Notice that king David, the writer of this Psalm, is not saying that all religions lead to heaven. He is not saying that all religions have basically the same message. He is saying just the opposite. He is saying “Make a choice who you will serve. I am your only hope and I have come to save you. When you serve me, you will also serve God, who appointed me as your king.”

“Serve the Lord with reverent fear, and rejoice with trembling” (Psalm 2:11 NLT).

David says “Serve the Lord.” That’s all there is to it and the alternative is unthinkable. Either serve the Lord with reverent fear or be smashed and broken (see Parts 1-2).

FEAR AND JOY

Serve with reverence. Rejoice with trembling. Seems opposites. Seems very oppressive. But there is no room for sentiment here where rebellion is concerned with David.

He leaves room for a heart attitude change, but when it all comes down to it, this is an act of will rather than some emotional decision. There will come a time when it will be forced on them. Their choices are die or serve the Lord. Submit to David as king or be crushed.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO FEAR THE LORD?

The Bible says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. It is a deep sense of awe, respect, and reverence toward Him; submission and obedience to Him. It’s recognising that He has all authority and we do not. The New Testament indicates that it is a recognition of what Christ has done for us in love when He died on a Cross for our sins, and responding to that love. There is no other way for us to be saved.

Joy comes with a sense of relief from not having to face judgment. 1 John 4:17-19 (NLT) says, “And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face Him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced His perfect love.” The opposite to experiencing the love of Christ is experiencing the fear of judgment.

The invitation of Psalm 2 is to welcome Jesus and submit to Him. That’s wise. Make a decision to rejoice in what He rejoices in. Love Him and serve Him above all else. The only unforgiveable sin is our unbelief. Hebrews 2:3 (NLT) says “So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation that was first announced by the Lord Jesus Himself and then delivered to us by those who heard Him speak?” Christ is the only way. He is the only One who loved us enough to save us.

Proverbs 9:10 (NLT) says “Fear of the Lord is the foundation of wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment.”

Pastor Ross