Serving God: Bringing Hope to the Lost

The gospel is indeed a message of hope for the lost.  The message that a sinner like me not only can be cleansed of unrighteousness, but declared righteous by God is almost unbelievable.  Even more so when we realize that this is possible only by grace through faith as I place my trust in the work of Christ on the cross.  The reality that I will spend eternity with God is truly a glorious truth.  However, the gospel has far greater implications beyond my future in heaven.  There are cosmic implications of the atonement of Christ that bring hope for today to all who believe.

In light of this I would like to take a brief but comprehensive look at the cosmic implications of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I believe that by understanding the full scope of the gospel we can bring hope to anyone regardless of their current circumstances.  We can bring real hope of transformation today and for eternity.

Before we can fully grasp the scope of the fall of man into sin we must understand God’s original intent for mankind.  This is seen in the creation account of Genesis 1.

26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

27 So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

In the commission of Genesis 1:26-28 God reveals his purpose for creating mankind.  Certainly, we should understand the image of God to refer to mankind’s relational attributes, our creative and volitional abilities, and as the root of every human being’s dignity.   These are all true, but there is much more significance to this passage.

The idea of image bearer is very significant.  In the culture of the ancient near east, kings would erect statues bearing their image throughout their kingdoms.  These statues would demonstrate to the people that the king’s reign extended to that region.  The image of the king reminded the people of whose authority they were under.  As the kingdom expanded, more images would be erected.

By creating man in his image, God was commissioning them to mediate his reign on earth.  This is understood in light of God giving Adam and Eve dominion over the earth and everything on it.  God was the creator and sovereign King, but mankind was to be his vice-regents ruling on his behalf.  In this sense, Adam and Eve were kings.  As they obeyed the commission to “multiply and fill the earth” they would carry God’s image and thus establish his reign over the earth.

God placed Adam initially in the Garden of Eden (Gen 2:8) which he had planted.  He commanded Adam to cultivate the garden (Gen 2:15) and he gave him Eve to assist him.  Their role in the garden is also extremely important to understand.  The garden was the place where God’s presence dwelt on earth.

Before the fall, mankind dwelt in the presence of God in the garden.  The command to cultivate the garden carries with it the understanding that Adam and Eve would expand the borders of the garden until it covered the entire earth.  The result being that the presence of God would extend over the earth.  In this sense, they were also priests.

In light of this we can better understand God’s original intention for humanity.  Adam and Eve were priest kings.  Their role was to mediate God’s sovereign rule over his creation and to expand his presence over all the earth.  God did not need them to do this, but rather entrusted them with the glorious privilege of participating with him in the created order.  This was the purpose of mankind.

Sadly, Adam and Eve did not exercise dominion for very long.  Adam demonstrated his mediation of God’s reign in that God allowed him to name all of the animals (Gen 2:19-20).  However, we see that Adam and Eve fail to fulfill their mandate.  Rather than mediating the rule of God over creation, they commit an act of treason and betray God.

They allow God’s enemy to enter the garden that they were commissioned to protect.  The serpent, Satan, begins to plant doubt in the mind of Eve and pander to her love of self.  He twists God’s words in an attempt to deceive her (Gen 3:1).  When Eve corrects him and states God’s actual command, the serpent calls God a liar (Gen 3:2-4).

The serpent says that if they eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil they will not die, but that they will become like God “knowing good and evil” (Gen 3:5).  Immediately Eve was enticed in her flesh to eat the fruit.  It’s clear that it was her love of self that led to her sin.  She saw that the tree was “good for food” and would satisfy her hunger.  It was a “delight to look at” which increased her desire of it.  Ultimately, she desired to be wise like God and believed the fruit would exalt her (Gen 3:6).

Eve, just like each of us, succumbed to the tyranny of self-love and self-gratification.  Adam likewise desired the fruit and freely ate of it when Eve offered it (Gen 3:6).  The couple that God entrusted to rule the earth on his behalf betrayed him and as a result surrendered their dominion to God’s enemy.  Through deception and mankind’s love of self, Satan was able to gain a stronghold on creation.

There were several significant results of mankind’s betrayal of God and alignment with his enemy.  First, their eyes were opened and they realized they were naked and became ashamed (Gen 3:7).  They attempted to cover their shame by sewing leaves together for clothing, however this was useless.  When God came walking in the garden they hid from him, because of their shame.  The couple that God had created to fulfill the role of priest by extending his presence throughout the earth was hiding from the very presence of God (Gen 3:8-10).

Next, we see several curses are placed by God on his creation as a result of mankind’s sin.  The serpent is cursed and enmity is placed between Satan and humanity (Gen 3:14-15).  Thus, as a result of Adam and Eve’s disobedience mankind is now caught in the middle of a cosmic battle between God and Satan.  While this battle is cosmic it is worked out in the lives of mankind.  Thus, those who were intended to rule now find themselves under constant assault by Satan and his cohorts.  Satan desires to destroy them and wipeout the remnant of God’s image in creation.

In the midst of this curse however, there is hope.  God tells Eve that her offspring will ultimately crush the head of the serpent.  The understanding here is that God will raise up a man who will destroy Satan and return mankind to his rightful position as priest king mediating God’s reign over the earth.  This word of hope is the first prophecy of Jesus Christ.

The next curse is placed upon the woman.  God increases her pain in child birth and brings enmity into her relationship with her husband (Gen 3:16).  The woman who before, had the privilege of filling the earth with God’s image bearers, now will endure much pain in the process.  Though she was created to rule alongside her husband now he will rule over her.

In this curse we see the root of so many problems in the world.  Problems in the home between husbands and wives stem from this curse.  The oppression and abuse of women is a result of this curse.  Indeed, this passage can be seen as affecting all human relationships and thus is the beginning of strife between man and his neighbor.  This plays out very quickly in the life of Cain and Abel (Gen 4:1-8).

As a result of Adam’s sin all of creation is cursed (Gen 3:17-19).  Adam was created to be a blessing to the creation to cultivate it and to benevolently mediate God’s reign over it.  Instead, his sin leads God to place a curse on the earth.  The cultivation of the earth which was to be a joy to Adam now becomes a hardship.  The ground is no longer as productive and Adam will constantly battle against thorns and thistles.

We don’t have to look far to see the multitudes of problems resulting from this curse.  Natural disasters like floods, tornados, and earthquakes wreak havoc on our world.  Droughts and the resulting famine and disease are the results of this curse. The world that was to be a beautiful garden filled with the presence of God is instead a planet struggling to provide for those originally commissioned to care for it.

Finally, to protect mankind from eating from the tree of life and thus living forever in his fallen sinful state, God forced Adam and Eve from the garden (Gen 3:22-24).  Though they were created to live in the garden in God’s presence they were forced out of the presence of God.  Cut off from God’s presence and the tree of life they would no longer live forever.  Just as God had said, they would surely die.

Thus, we see the magnitude of the scope of the fall.  Every aspect of life has been affected by Adam’s sin.  He surrendered his position of authority to Satan who is determined to eradicate God’s image from the earth.  Human relationships have been twisted and the love of self is mankind’s driving ambition.  The creation itself groans for redemption as it struggles under the weight of the curse, the exploitation of mankind, and the constant assault of the war that rages between God and Satan.  Indeed, the fall of mankind has had immense implications for all of God’s creation.

However, there is a glimmer of hope seen in Genesis 3:20-21.  Adam, in faith, named his wife Eve, because she was the mother of all living (Gen 3:20).  This is a reference back to the prophecy in Gen 3:15 that the seed of the woman would crush the head of Satan.  After this, God clothes them with garments of skin (Gen 3:21).

There are two very important concepts for us to understand in this act.  First, in order to make the clothing, blood must have been shed.  In this we see the necessity of the shedding of blood to deal with sin.  Second, we see the restoration of fellowship with God.  The couple hid from God because they were ashamed of their nakedness, but God in his grace clothes them in order to restore fellowship with them.  Both of these realities point forward to the hope found in the cross.

As extensive as the results of the fall are, we have hope because of the gospel!  The atonement of Christ is equally extensive overcoming all of the results of the fall and sin.  The immediate result of Adam’s sin was that they lost innocence and became ashamed of their nakedness.  In Genesis God clothed them in fur to restore fellowship with them, but believers are clothed in Christ (Gal 3:27).  That is to say our shame has been removed by the blood of the cross and we have been given the righteousness of Christ.  No longer must we hide from the presence of God; we can now approach him with boldness because of Christ (Eph 3:12).

As a result of the fall there were several curses placed by God.  When he cursed the serpent he placed enmity between him and humanity.  As previously discussed, this explains the spiritual warfare that we all endure from Satan.  He is a lion who seeks to destroy mankind (1 Peter 5:8), but as prophesied in Gen 3:15 the Son of Man has crushed his head.

This is evidenced in the ministry of Jesus.  By casting out demons, Jesus was demonstrating that he was reestablishing the dominion that Adam lost.

28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29 Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. (Matt 12:28-29)

Christ clearly showed that he had defeated Satan by exercising authority over demons.  The death blow was dealt at the cross and though Christ was bruised, his ultimate victory was established by the resurrection.  Satan has been defeated.  He still attacks the church, but in Christ we know that we have the victory and we will reign with Christ for eternity.

The curse that was placed on Eve made the process of filling the earth with image bearers a painful one.  In Christ, this process takes on new meaning.  Mankind is dead in sin and the image of God is marred in us.  Thus, filling the earth with the image of God requires new birth (John 3:3).  Paul talks of our old self being baptized into the death of Christ and raised with him to “newness of life” (Romans 6:3-6).  In Ephesians he refers to this as removing the old self and putting on the new self which is created in the likeness, or image, of God (Eph 4:22-24).  In this way, filling the earth with image bearers has a spiritual significance because only those who have died and been raised with Christ participate in his kingdom as image bearers.

As a result of the curse on the woman, discord arises in the home and spreads throughout all human relationships.  Yet Christ overcomes this by the cross.  He lives a life of self-denial and considers others as more important than himself.  Our old self was crucified with Christ and freed from the tyranny of self-love.  His life becomes our model of humility (Phil 2:3-8) as we seek to love God with all that we are and love our neighbors as ourselves.  Thus in the kingdom of God, this curse is likewise overcome by the blood of Jesus.

Adam also was cursed as a result of sin.  He forfeited the dominion the Lord had given him and brought death and sin into the world.  The creation itself groans under the weight of this curse (Romans 8:19-22).  Christ, the last Adam, reestablished man’s role in mediating God’s reign over creation.

 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:17)

The citizens of the kingdom of God reign with Christ.  This reign has begun even now as Christ has been given all authority in heaven and on earth.  He mediates that reign through his body the church, by the power of the Holy Spirit, for the glory of the Father.

For sure the reign of Christ has not come in its fullness.  There is a now and not yet reality to the kingdom of God.  The kingdom has begun and we build for the kingdom now with the hope that Christ will return and establish his reign in its fullness and completely wipe away all of the effects of sin.

This is exactly what we see in the close of scripture in the new heaven and new earth and the new Jerusalem.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. (Rev 21:1-7)

By the blood of his cross the Lord Jesus ultimately overcomes the fall and the curse.  Because of his righteousness the stronghold of sin is broken and all things are made new.  As originally intended, mankind will mediate the reign of God over a restored creation and we dwell in the presence of God forever just as was intended in the Garden of Eden!  This is a message of hope for everyone!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Why did God destroy Sodom?

Why did God destroy Sodom and Gomorrah? I did a quick study looking for verses explaining why and this is what I found.

Gen 18:19-21 Since God chose Abraham to keep the way of the Lord by “doing righteousness & justice” he revealed to him the plan to destroy Sodom because the “outcry against Sodom & Gomorrah is great & their sin is very grave…” (ESV) It does not list specific sin.

Isaiah 1 – The Lord lists the multitude of Judah’s sins and compares them to Sodom and Gomorrah because of their empty religious activities.  He commands them to “cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widows cause.” (vs 16b-17 ESV)

Jeremiah 23:14 – The prophet Jeremiah compares the sin of the prophets of Jerusalem with the people of Sodom and Gomorrah.  They commit adultery, lie, and assist evildoers, so that they continue in their sin.

Ezekiel 16:49-50 – This is the only passage that directly states what the sin of Sodom was.  They were prideful, had an excess of food, and prosperous ease yet they hoarded those things on themselves and neglected the poor.  They were prideful and did an abomination before God.

Matt 10:15/Luke 10:12 – Seems to imply that the rejection of the Apostles and their message and thus a continuing in sin will be judged more harshly than the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah.

2 Peter 2:6-8 – Peter says that Lot was greatly distressed by the “sensual conduct of the wicked” which seems to be a reference to sexual sin and lewdness.

Jude 7 – In this verse Jude clearly ascribes a sexual nature to some of the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah, but in its context it would seem the sin he is referring to is the desire to have sex with the angels.

So what is my point?  Well it is not that homosexuality is ok.  There is plenty of evidence in scripture that the practice of homosexuality is sin, just as there is plenty of evidence that adultery and heterosexual sex outside of marriage is sinful.  That being said, the argument that the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was strictly, or even chiefly that of homosexuality, is not defensible with scripture.  Thus, the faulty logic that homosexuality is somehow a bigger abomination to God than other sexual sins is likewise flawed.

Based on this brief study, we have to conclude that the sin that led to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was pride and self-centeredness.  They had been blessed by God, but like the rich fool in one of Jesus’ parables, they hoarded God’s blessings on themselves and neglected the poor and needy among them.  They did not love God or their neighbors.  Even the sexual sin that was present was the result of self-centeredness as they sought to gratify the lust of the flesh.  Frankly, I find this understanding of the fall of Sodom to be much more bothersome and convicting to me personally, but it is nonetheless what the Bible teaches.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

God’s Election

Paul begins Romans 9 by sharing his heartbreak over the lost condition of his fellow Israelites (vs. 1-5).  Israel had been adopted as God’s special people, and as such had received the covenants, the law, the promises, and the patriarchs.  It was from their race that the Messiah would come.  In spite of all of this they rejected God.  As Paul later put it, they stumbled over Christ (vs. 33).  How could the people of God who had received so much fail to receive the salvation provided in Christ?  Had God failed to do what he promised?

Paul deals with this in the next section (vs. 6-13).  The word of God had not failed because not all of ethnic Israel is the Israel of God (vs. 6).  He first illustrates this in the life of Abraham (vs. 6-9).  The Lord made a covenant with Abraham promising that he would make him a great nation and bless him, so that he would be a blessing.  This included blessing the entire earth through the coming Messiah (vs. Gen 12:2-3).  Abraham fails to trust God and fathers Ishmael with Hagar, his wife’s slave.  However, God tells Abraham that it is by Isaac that the promise will be fulfilled (Gen 12:12, Romans 9:7).

While the promise was made to Abraham and his descendants, not all of them are included.  The children of the flesh, the descendants of Ishmael, are not the children of God.  It is the children of the promise that are the true offspring.  Paul’s point is that simply having Abraham as their ancestor, did not qualify the Jews to belong to the Israel of God.  The people who, like Abraham, exercise faith are the ones counted righteous (Romans 4:3-5).

Paul further explains this through the life of Jacob and Esau (vs. 10-13).  Rebecca conceived twins and before they were born she and Isaac were told that the older (Esau) would serve the younger (Jacob).  This was totally contrary to their culture, and would have been very shocking.  Paul says that God did this so that his purpose of election might continue.  Before either boy could do anything to merit God’s favor, God chose to bless Jacob.

Again he is illustrating that not all the descendants of Abraham are of the true Israel.  He drives this point home by quoting Malachi 1:2-3 “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I hated.”  Some scholars try to soften this statement and say it simply means God “loved Esau less” than Jacob.  First, we can quite simply note it says he hated Esau not loved him less.  Second, Malachi 1:2-5 makes this view impossible.  God says he has utterly destroyed the descendants of Esau and they will be called ‘the people with whom the Lord is angry forever.’  So, from the womb, before birth, God determined that he would love Jacob and hate Esau.  This was not based on any works, including faith, but simply on the call, or choice, of God.

Paul is stating that the Lord has kept his promise because the remnant, the true Israel, is being redeemed while the remainder of ethnic Israel continues in rejection.  He anticipated the Israelites shock so he asks “Is there injustice on God’s part” (vs. 14) and proceeds to address this issue (vs.14-18).  First, he quotes Exodus 33:19 to address this concern.  In this passage Moses has been commanded to lead the people out of Sinai, but the Lord says he will not go with them.  This is because they are stiff necked and if God goes with them he will consume them (Ex 33:3).  Moses intercedes on their behalf and God tells him “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and compassion on whom I have compassion” (v 15).  Regarding this passage, Paul states that God’s display of mercy has nothing to do with human will or deeds but simply on God’s choice to show mercy.

Further, Paul points to Pharaoh in Exodus 9.  Through Moses the Lord tells him about the coming of the seventh plague.  The Lord says that he could have already destroyed the Egyptians (Ex 9:15) and freed the Israelites.  Instead, he hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that he might raise him up to demonstrate his power and that his name would be proclaimed (Ex 9:16, Rom 9:17).  Again, Paul says it is God who has mercy on whom he wishes and hardens whom he wishes.

Expecting objections Paul asks “Why does he still find fault?”  Certainly, we respond in the same way.  How could God be just in finding fault when he hardens some for judgment and exercises mercy on others solely based on his calling?  Paul’s response is very significant (vs. 19-29).  He offers no explanation of this seeming injustice or contradiction.  Instead he asks, who are we to question God?  Just as the clay has no right to question the potter who shapes it as he wills, we have no right to question the one who created us (vs. 20-21).

It is God’s prerogative to create vessels as he sees fit, some to display his wrath and others to display his mercy (vs. 22-23).  Surprisingly for the Jews, the Gentiles are found among those vessels called to display God’s mercy (vs. 24).  This is shown through multiple Old Testament passages.  The first passage is Hosea 2:23.  In its original context, it refers to Israel, but here the Holy Spirit inspires Paul to apply it to the Gentiles.  The second passage is from Isaiah.  The prophet speaks to how the Lord preserved a remnant (Rom 9:27, Is 10:22, 23) otherwise the people of God would have been destroyed like Sodom and Gomorrah (Rom 9:29, Is 1:9).  Thus the word of God has not failed because he has preserved a remnant of ethnic Israel and added the elect of the Gentiles.  These two make up the true Israel of God.

Paul closes out the chapter rather unexpectedly.  He does not use the sovereignty of God and his election to absolve the Israelites of responsibility.  He says the Gentiles have attained righteousness by faith, but Israel failed to attain it because they pursued the law of righteousness by works (vs. 30-32).  They have stumbled over Christ.  That is they rejected the righteousness of Christ that was made available to them through faith.  They chose to remain under the law and will therefore be judged by the law.  It is only in Christ that we can receive the righteousness of the law, because only he has fulfilled the law.  Somehow God’s sovereign election does not diminish man’s responsibility.

This is a difficult chapter and we often don’t like it because we look at it from the wrong perspective.  Just as Paul anticipated, our response is to say if this is true then God is unjust and unloving.  This goes against his nature.  However, this response reveals a major oversight on our part.  We must remember that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23), and none are righteous (Rom 3:10).  Therefore, all deserve wrath and God is not obligated to save any.  God does no injustice when he allows unrighteous people to persevere in their rejection or even when in judgment he hardens their hearts further.

However, God is exceedingly merciful when he chooses to intervene and call some of those unrighteous into saving faith.  Admittedly, these are difficult truths but we are not called to justify God in them.  We are called to humbly submit to them and rejoice in the undeserved mercy we have received.  Further, far from quenching our evangelistic zeal, these truths should lead us to respond as Paul did in Rom 1: 2-3 and 10:1.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Released from the Law

In Romans 6 Paul discusses how the believer has died with Christ and thus died to sin.  In vs 14-15 Paul states that believers are no longer under the law, but under grace.  This concept is fleshed out by Paul in Romans 7.  The child of God has been released from the bondage of the law.

He begins in vs 1-3 with an analogy to illustrate how the law no longer has authority over one who has died.  Paul uses the law regarding marriage to make his point.  A woman is freed from the law of marriage when her husband dies, that is she is released and is free to marry another in good conscience.  The death of her husband frees her to be joined to another.

Likewise, the believer is freed from the Mosaic Law when he dies “through the body of Christ” (vs 4).  The idea of dying through the body of Christ, speaks to Christ as our representative.  He physically died for us, thus we died in him.  Having been freed from the law, the believer is now free to be united with Christ; just as the woman in the previous analogy was free to marry another.  The purpose of this union with Christ is that we would belong to him and as a result bear fruit for God (vs  4).

In John 15 Jesus talks to his disciples about abiding in him and bearing fruit.  He makes it clear that we cannot bear fruit unless we abide in, or are joined to, him just as the branch must be joined to the vine.  So our death through the body of Christ, which releases us from the Mosaic Law and frees us to belong to or be in union with Christ, is essential to our fruitfulness.

When we were “living in the flesh” (vs 5) our sinful passions were aroused by the law.  As Paul makes perfectly clear in vs 7 he is not stating that the law was sin but rather aroused his sin nature.  The law did not cause sin, but by pointing out sin it aroused our sinful nature to sin.  Paul uses the example of coveting, but we know that whenever we are told not to do something it becomes the very thing our rebellious nature desires to do.  In this way the law not only revealed sin, but in so doing aroused our flesh to sin producing fruit that lead to death.  So the law is good, but because it did not empower us to overcome the sin it pointed out, it lead to death.

The believer has now, by their death through Christ, been released and is no longer in bondage to the law (vs 6).  Christians do not serve God in a legalistic manner seeking to obey the law to please God.  Rather, having been raised with Jesus they serve God in the “new life of the Spirit” (vs 6).  In chapter 6, Paul talks about this as becoming “obedient from the heart” (vs 17).  Indeed, as prophesied in Jeremiah 31:31-34, the law is written upon the heart of the believer.

In light of all of this, how is the believer supposed to view the Mosaic Law?  Is being released from the law a license to sin?  While the Christian is no longer in bondage to the law, seeking to slavishly yet powerlessly obey it, the fact remains that the law is good and reveals God’s will for man.  Christ stated that he did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it (Matt 5:17).  Likewise, the Christian, walking in the new life of the Spirit, will fulfill the law.  He will not do so by legalistic works but from obedience that flows from the heart.  By the power of the Spirit and motivated by a heart of gratitude for the grace of God our release from the law insures our obedience to it.

The idea being communicated in vs. 1-6 is interrupted by a parenthetical section in vs. 7-25.  The thought is picked back up in Romans 8:1.  Our release from the law and its penalties means that believers are now under “no condemnation” because they live the new life of the Spirit and thus obey from their heart.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Psalm 128

In Psalm 127, Solomon explained the vanity of work without first having placed ones trust in the Lord.  Here the psalmist looks at the converse. Everyone who fears the Lord and walks according to His ways will be blessed.  It will be as if the curse from Genesis 3 has been lifted.

Their labor will be blessed and fruitful.  They shall eat and enjoy the fruit of their toil.  Their wife will be fruitful and multiply.  She will be a blessing to her husband and children.  The children of the man who fears the Lord will be productive and strong.  This is the blessing for the man who fears the Lord and walks in his ways.

The one who fears the Lord is not only concerned with himself, but for Jerusalem and the people of God.  Thus, the blessing he receives ultimately extends beyond the individual, and beyond the present.  When God’s people fear him and walk in His ways, the Lord blesses them corporately and eternally. The Lord will bless them from Zion!

So often we leave the Lord out of our plans.  We work and strive for success, but we only find failure.  This is not the case when we trust in the Lord and seek His will.  Though the world will groan under the curse that came from Adam’s sin, the people of God will once again be fruitful and multiply.  They will fill the earth and enjoy the fruit of their labors.  This eternal perspective of failure and blessing will allow God’s people to rejoice, for we have overcome the world.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Psalm 127

Solomon knew all too well the vanity of toil apart from trust in the Lord.  In Ecclesiastes 2:24-26, he discussed how God uses the sinful to gather and collect only to give what they have gathered to those who trust in Him.  Likewise, it is vanity to labor and build a house apart from following the Lord.  The idea of building a house should be understood as more than a building, but as a household; it includes the rearing of children.  To labor to build a family without first trusting in and submitting to the Lord, is a vain endeavor.

In the same manner, laboring to protect a city without first trusting the Lord is vanity.  Solomon knew that real security came from being connected with the Lord and not by human strength and wisdom.  How often we work ourselves ragged trying to provide for our families or secure our future.  The point is not to devalue work, but to place it in a proper perspective.  Without the blessing of sovereign God, we work in vain.

Having established the necessity of God’s care and provision for his people, Solomon focuses his attention on children as part of that blessing.  The Lord blesses his people with children as a heritage, “Like arrows to a warrior are the sons of one’s youth” verse 4.  Sons were like arrows because they would grow and be able to protect and care for their aging parents.

The man with a quiver full of children was blessed because he would be secure in his old age.  His children would provide for him and would be advocates for him.  They would seek justice at the gate and protect their elderly parents from oppression. The elderly were weak and vulnerable, but God provided children to care for their parents as instruments of His blessing.  This was the manner in which God built the home for those who trusted in Him.

Whether one was young and building a family or elderly with a grown family, the Lord cared for those who trusted in him.  This is still true today.  Our hope is not in a big 401k, or an alarm system.  Our hope is in the Lord.  When we trust in Him we can find rest in the midst of our toils.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Psalm 126

The people of God were taken into captivity and forcibly removed from the land that the Lord had promised their father Abraham.  They were sojourners in a foreign empire for decades.  Undoubtedly, many had given up hope of ever returning to their beloved land.  Surely they questioned whether God had forgotten or abandoned them in the nation of their enemies.

Then unexpectedly, they receive the news that they were being restored to Zion.  The news was too good to be true.  It was as if they were dreaming!  They were filled with laughter and shouts of joy.  God had remembered his promise and was going to restore his people.  Just as the Lord delivered the people from captivity in Egypt, this second exodus would deliver them from exile and restore them to the land of promise.

Once again the nations took notice of the great things God was doing for his people, Israel.  God was moving on their behalf and the world was in awe.  In acknowledgement of this, Israel rejoiced in the goodness and blessings of God, but the rejoicing soon faded.

When the remnant of the people returned to Zion, they didn’t find the promise land they expected.  When the nation of Israel originally entered the land, they received cities which they did not build and vineyards they did not plant. (Joshua 24:13)  However, those returning from exile found Jerusalem in ruins and the people experienced famine.  Thus, they cried out to God to restore their fortunes.

The people once again are encouraged to trust in the Lord.  Though there is famine, they will sow their seed in tears trusting they will reap with shouts of joy!  The Lord will bless and they will have a bountiful harvest, bringing in their sheaves.  Their experience has been one of heartbreak and difficulty, yet by trusting in the Lord they are joyful and content.  In Christ, we can live in the tension of the harsh reality of our circumstances while rejoicing because of our trust in Him.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email