I Have Sinned Against God?

My husband and I finished reading the book of 2 Samuel this morning.   Growing up I loved the stories of King David:

  • the young man who killed the giant Goliath with a sling and a stone
  • the shepherd boy writing beautiful Psalms
  • the mighty warrior king
  • the man who wanted to build a temple for God

One of the best known stories is his great sin when he coveted the wife of another man.  Psalm 51 is believed to have been the psalm he wrote after repenting of his terrible sins.

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.

 

Reading this I cannot help but think of al the people David sinned against.

  • Bathsheba who he seduced into betraying her husband
  • Her husband, Uriah, whose wife he stole and then had killed
  • His own family for who he set such a bad example
  • His military commander, Joab, who was forced into a compromising position in having Uriah killed

Yet David said he had sinned against God and God only.

Understanding how David must have felt when the full sense of what he had done hit him helps explain this I believe.  David had from his youth depended on God and reading the Psalms he wrote you can see the love he had for God.  When he fully realized how he had betrayed, not only Uriah and Bathsheba, but the very basis of his faith, he was devastated.

So when David says, “Against you and you only have I sinned,” I don’t think he means, “I didn’t wrong Uriah by killing him, and I didn’t wrong Bathsheba by raping her, and I didn’t wrong the baby by being the cause of its death.” He meant, “The horrible thing here, ultimately, is that I rebelled against God. I rejected God as my treasure. I scorned the word of God.” This is what Nathan said to him when he came and pointed the finger at him: “Why have you despised the word of God?” That’s what Nathan said. Nathan didn’t say, “Why have you killed a man, and why have you raped a woman?” He said, “Why have you despised the word of God?”

So David knows from the prophet that the worst thing that has happened here is that he has despised God. And so I think that’s what he means. He is simply drawing attention, not to the minimization of rape and murder, but to the maximization of the assault on God that happened in those acts.

They are not less horrible because he says this: they are more horrible because he says this….John Piper

When Joseph was tempted by Potiphar’s wife he resisted her by saying.

“My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?”

Of course such a sin would have been against Potiphar but Joseph placed his greater loyalty to God and God’s laws.  It was God he did not want to offend.

So, I ask myself – When I offend someone, when I harm someone, when I sin against someone, how do I sorry for that?

Do I just apologize to that person and move on?  Do I think that takes care of everything?  Or, do I realize that my sin is also rejecting the word of God?  Do I realize how I have counted my desire to “do my own thing” more important than my desire to remain true to my faith, my God?

Lord, help me to value my relationship with you and my loyalty to your Word that I will not regard my sins so ightly, but reconize my sins are against You and repent accordingly.

 

Do You Know These Women – Part IV

In past blogs I have written about women who have been neglected in our history books.  Women who played important roles in World War II, in the NASA program and in our political system.  Sadly it seems writers of history books have told of the brave and intelligent men of our country, but seem to have overlooked so many women who have also contributed to our nation’s success.

Reading with my husband through the Bible this year I realize this is also true in our churches.  Anyone who has attended Sunday School or Bible classes in the past or read a Bible storybook for children know about the great men of the Bible.

  • Abraham, Isaac, Jacob
  • Moses and Joshua
  • Samson, Gideon
  • Samuel, Saul and David
  • Peter, John and the disciples
  • Paul

But how many know of

  • Deborah
  • Jael
  • Shiphrah
  • Puah
  • Huldah

We meet Deborah in the book of Judges.  She was a judge and a phophetess in Israel.  Interesting for a woman to be a judge in that time frame where women were often considered not much more than a man’s property.  The Lord gave Deborah instructions to call for a man named Barak and tell him he was to take 10,000 men and go to battle against the Canaanite army that was oppressing Israel.  Barak was afraid to go to battle against this powerful king and told Deborah he would not go unless she went with him.

Deborah agreed to go but told Barak:

Certainly I will go with you, But because of the course you are taking, the honor will not be yours, for the Lord will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.”

You can read the entire story in Judges 4 but a woman named Jael had the honor of killing the Canaanite king, Sisera.

In Sunday School we all heard the great story of Moses and how he was saved from death during the time Pharaoh had ordered all male babies to be killed.  The emphasis  in the story is usually how God moved miraculously to save this future leader.  However,  the fact that all those involved in his deliverance were women is usually not even mentioned.  First there were the midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, who refused to kill the male babies as Pharaoh had instructed them.  Next was Moses’ mother who by faith made a little boat coated with tar and placed Moses in the river trusting God to spare his life.  God even used Pharaoh’s daughter who had compassion when she saw Moses and adopted him.  His sister, Miriam, was wise and brave enough to quickly come out of hiding where she was watching to see what would happen to Moses.  She boldly suggested to Pharaoh’s daughter that she select a woman from the Israelites to nurse this little baby.  Without these women there might have been no Moses, no great deliver of Israel.  You can check this story out in Exodus 2

Hundreds of years later as Israel became a nation they turned from following the law of Moses and began worshiping idol gods.  Then a young king named Josiah came to the throne and began tearing down the idols built throughout the land and started repair to the temple.  In the process the high priest found the Law of Moses that had long been lost.  The priest and a scribe brought the book to Josiah

When the king read the book he tore his clothes as a sign of repentance and moaning.  He instructed these men to inquire of the Lord what they should do because it was clear that they were not following the Law.

You would think that these two men would have gone and began seeking God’s guidance.  After all, who would be closer to God than they were?  Who would better understand what God required?

The priest was the high priest – no one higher in the religious circle than he.  The scribe mentioned probably was at the head of the scribes as he came with the high priest to show Josiah the book they had found.

But these men were clearly aware that there was someone who had a better understanding of the will of God than they had.  And who was that?

A woman – Huldah.  She gave a message from God to the king regarding how the nation should respond to this crisis of faith.

That is all we hear of Huldah.  But without her message from God the revival Josiah had began might never have reached the entire nation and brought a return to God’s law.  You can check out Huldah’s story in 2 Chronicles 34.

Interesting that in the history of the church many refused to recognize that God could/did call women to minister His word.  There are still churches today that deny women the right to share the call of God on their lives.

Thankfully Israel did not reject the guidance of Deborah and Huldah and deny God’s call on their lives.

There are many other women in the Bible that played such an important part in the story of God.

Eve, Tamar, Rahab, Sarah, Miriam, Ruth, Naomi, Jehosheba, Esther, Mary, Anna,  Mary Magdalene. Lydia, Priscilla and Phoebe.

What really is interesting to me that when Jesus died, it was the women who stood at the cross.  It was the women who went to the tomb to properly prepare his body.  When Jesus arose from the dead the first person He called to share the good news was a woman.

Next time you read the Bible, play a little more attention to the women.  They are an important part of the story.

 

 

Does God Really Demand Obedience?

Most of us grew up seeing the Ten Commandments posted on walls of our schools, courthouses and churches.  Many have claimed these principles are the basis for our Judeo-Christian society.

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My husband and I started 2019 by reading through the Bible – starting with Genesis.  The story was interesting at first as we read about creation, the flood and the beginning of the Israelite nation with patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  Then we got to the end of Exodus and the beginning of Leviticus.  Here, Moses was given detailed instructions on how the tabernacle should be built and how the priests should conduct offerings used in worship of God.  There are rules about what to eat and what not to eat, a lot of rules regarding sexual relations and how to deal with skin diseases.

To be honest, this is difficult and somewhat boring reading.  But one thing I noticed throughout that portion of Scripture that over and over it was said that Moses did “just what the Lord had commanded.”

Throughout the Old Testament we read the story of how the Israelites did like we still seem to do today – sometimes obeying God – sometimes not.  The Old Testament ends with the nation of Israel exiled because of their failure to obey God’s commands.

Then we enter the New Testament.  We see Jesus who came to pay the price of our disobedience.  We live in what we call the period of grace.  What a blessing to not have to live in fear of breaking a command of God, of knowing that we are saved not by what we do, but by faith and acceptance of what Jesus did for us on the cross.

grace

So, does that mean we are no longer required to obey?  The loving picture of Jesus in the New Testament is certainly much more appealing than the demands of obedience in the Old Testament.

But a closer look at the words of Jesus shows He also demanded obedience if we would claim to be following Him.

“If you love me, keep my commandments.”

“The person who knows my commandments and keeps them, that’s who loves me. And the person who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and make myself plain to him.”

Jesus summed up the commandments when He told his questioners:

“‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

This all sounds pretty simple.  Really not too demanding.  Much easier than living under the Law.

Right?

I don’t think so.  I think the requirements of Jesus are much more demanding – and something we cannot do without His help.

Think about it:

  • The Law said not to murder.
  • Jesus said if you are angry and curse someone you are in danger of hell.  He said to not bring any sacrifice to Him until you made it right with the one you were angry with.

 

  • The Law said not to commit adultery.
  • Jesus said a person must not look at another with lust in their heart.

 

  • The Law said to love your neighbor and hate your enemy.
  • Jesus said to love your enemy and to even pray for them.

 

  • The Law was concerned with our outward appearance.
  • Jesus is concerned with our heart.

 

My heart grieves today as it seems many Christians feel they no longer have to obey the words of Jesus when it comes to loving and praying for their enemies.

But I note that He said He would love us and make Himself plain to us (in other words have a relationship with Him) IF we obey His commandments.

Without love for others, I fear we will, like the Israelites, find ourselves without God’s protection.

enemies.jpg

Lord God, thank you for loving us.  Help us to remember that as we experience your love and mercy we just give that love and mercy to others.  Even to those who disagree with us.  Even to those who hurt us.  Help us to love as you love and remember that you not only love us, but you love our enemies.

Abram! Are You Serious?

Growing up in church many times I heard the story of Abraham as told in Genesis.  This man who is referred to as “the friend of God” is also held up as a great example of faith.

abraham.jpg

Regarded by the Jewish people as their forefather through his son Isaac, he is also revered by the Arab nations who count him as their forefather through his son Ishmael.

Any who has heard the story of Abraham knows that his name was first Abram which means “exalted father.”   When he was 99 years old God appeared to him and repeated the promise He had made years before telling Abram

As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations.  No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations.  I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you.

As a child I did not think too much of Abram making this name change.  I know he is pointed out as a man of faith because he obeyed God and left his home and country to go to a new place that God would show him.  Also his willingness to obey God and sacrifice his son, Isaac, trusting God to restore him to life is another example used by those who point him as our example of faith.

But as I read this week of this change of name I think this might have been the greatest example of his faith.

Think about it.

You are a rich man with lots of cattle and servants.  Many people look to you as their employer, their master, the one who supplies their daily needs.  You are now 99 years and your wife is also very old – clearly past the time to bear children.

You suddenly proclaim that from now on they are not to call you by your name Abram  but rather to call you by a new name Abraham which means “father of a multitude.”

I can almost imagine the comments made by the servants that night in their tents.

Father of a multitude?  Right!  He has not been able to have any children with his wife all these years – and now at 99 he’s going to have a multitude of children!  What does he plan to do – take a dozen wives?  

Yeah – even if he takes a dozen wives – a man his age – is he really capable of fathering a multitude?  Maybe he is losing his mind – old people do get crazy sometimes.

Yet Abraham believed God and made that change.

And how did that turn out?

  • Today there are about 14.5 million Jews in the world.
  • Statistics I could find show there are between 407 – 402 Arabs in the world.
  • There are 22 Arabs states in the world and Israel – what an amazing story there – is once again a nation after being destroyed by Rome in AD 70.
  • Abraham is also revered as the forefather of the Arab nations and Islam, as he was also the father of Ishmael, his son through Hagar, Sara’s Egyptian princess handmaiden. The Koran reports that Abraham and Ishmael raised the foundations of the Kaaba, the cube-shaped black stone structure in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, which is Islam’s holiest shrine. During the annual Haj pilgrimage, Moslems from all over the world circle the Kaaba, reinforcing the central role of Abraham and Ishmael in Islamic faith.
  • On Rosh Hashanah, the Jews recalled the story of Isaac’s near-sacrifice, which Jewish tradition states occurred on the first of Tishri and honor Abraham’s faith and obedience to God.
  • In Christians circles he is the acknowledged father of monotheism, progenitor of Western religion.  So many little children have sung that song

Father Abraham had many sons, many sons had Father Abrham.  And I am one of them and so are you, so let’s just praise the Lord.

Thinking of the faith Abraham had to declare he was to be called, at age 99, “Father of a miultitude” makes me wonder how many times God speaks to us about something in our lives and we are afraid to share it.  Afraid others will think we are crazy, or maybe even being prideful.

I remember when God called my husband and I to sell our home and possessions and go to the Philippines to teach.  I thought my co-workers might think I was crazy but I was amazed at the response of my fellow Christians.

Some thought we were fools to sell everything and step out by faith.  Others thought we were boasting when we said God had called us to this.  Then, there were those who wondered how we could do that to our family.  Leave them alone and journey to the other side of the world.

Has God ever called you to a task that you were afraid to share?

Has God ever asked you to do something that others would consider foolish?

Always trust God and like Abraham declare that which seems foolish and impossible.