Monday, September 14, 2009

The Ongoing Consequences for the Wicked - Psalm 1:5

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous

Sorry for the break since last week...your comments are so encouraging. THANK YOU!

Let's dig back in. Bible Study 101 teaches that if you see a "therefore" be sure and ask what it is "there for".

The "therefore" of verse 5 ties right back to "the wind driving the chaff". Therefore could also be stated, "just as surely as the winds blow the chaff in the direction of the wind's choosing, how much more does God send the wicked away after judgement."

The "ungodly shall not stand" is a figurative way of saying - when they are called to give an account of their lives they will have nothing on which to stand.

When and where shall they not stand? At the judgement.

Judgement means there is a judge, a standard for knowing if the person has kept or broken the law and there is a sentence.

Who is the Judge and what is the extent of His power?

John 5:22 - 29 "The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment."

When is this judgement?

  • Hebrews 9: 27 "It is appointed unto man once to die and after this comes judgement."
  • "Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done." Revelation 20: 11 - 12

What will be judged?

  • "For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil." Ecclesiastes 12:14
  • "I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:36 - 37
  • "But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed." Romans 2:5

Who will face this judgement?

"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. " II Corinthians 5:10

How will believers be judged?

I Corinthians 3: 10 - 15 "According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire."

Is it possible to face the judgement without fear?

"By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. I John 4:13 - 18

Some have accused God of being capricious in His judgements. Nothing could be further from the truth! Our Holy God has been abundantly clear (from the foundation of the world) about what pleases Him and has been equally clear about the consequences for sin. It is humanity who has sought to redraw the lines, redefine and categories and reframe the real issues at play. Sin has always and only had one consequence - death. All sin - any sin - ultimate consequence death. The reason we are confused is because we want to redefine sin to suit our liscentiousness. We want a scale for sinfulness and invariably our sin is never at the tipping point. We have the extaordinary ability to make our sin look incredibly gray while other folks must live in stark black or white.

God's standard has never moved! Holiness has always been and will always be God's measure of our lives.

Oh but the problem precious ones is that Holiness is the very thing we lack. Lack doesn't even cut it. We are absolutely unholy and cannot make or will ourselves to be holy. Holiness comes by birth not by will power. Holiness is not the little engine that could. Jesus will have none of the "pull myself up by my own boot straps" religion. His command is simple - come and die that my life might be given to you.

Jesus said, "“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:5 - 8

The verse ends by saying that there are two different congregations. The first congregation is the assembly of the rigtheous. Those who have been declared to be holy by the Sovereign and Gracious Decree of our Holy God. The second congregation are those who have continued in their willfulness, rebellion and idolatry. The Psalm calls them sinners...those whose hearts have culitvated self-worship and who are under the wrath of God and face ultimate destruction.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Not So the Wicked - Psalm 1:4

The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

Just a reminder - pray as you begin and ask the LORD to grant you understanding, to give you grace to hear His Word and to give you the grace to believe and obey.

In the Hebrew this verse begins with the emphatic "NOT SO the wicked!" We miss some of the power behind the author's words when we translate it "the wicked are not so...." We soften it when the author intended to get our attention by saying, "everything that we just said that is true of the righeous is emphatically not true of the wicked. In fact the opposite is true of those who hate God."
Who are these wicked people, what are their characteristics, what do they choose and what do they believe (or disbelieve)?
The wicked (rasah - 7563 TCWSDOT pages 1080 - 1081) refers to those who are guilty, criminals, transgressors. It is often used in direct contrast to the righteous and is almost exclusively used in a legal sense. The wicked person has been tried for their wicked deeds and has been found guilty. An even stronger use of the word is how the wicked are seen by God. The wicked are God's enemies and those from whom God rescues the righteous. They are evil and do not learn righteousness. They willfully choose to follow after and find ways to offend God and His people. Here in Psalm 1 and in other OT passages the wicked are noted by their path, way, counsel, tent, and life.
Who are they? God's enemies!
What are their characteristics? They willfully choose to reject God's laws, reject God's ways and more than that seek to lead others in the same life.

What do they choose? They choose condemnation and ultimately death, God's wrath abides on them.
What do they believe or, more precisely, what is their unbelief? They do not believe that God is holy, righteous, just, and glorious. The root of their unbelief is that they do not fear God! (see Psalm 73 for how the wicked live and what they think)
Their unbelief has consequences. Instead of being a tree firmly planted with continuous refreshement and promised fruitfulness the Scripture says they are chaff (mots - 4671), just husks of wheat that are worthless and useless having no roots.

Now this next part is way cool! The husks of wheat actually have a purpose. Can you believe that their intended purpose is to protect the wheat until it is time for harvest! Once the wheat is cut, the threshing process requires that the chaff be broken off so that the wheat germ can be ground and used for food or meal. Did you get that? The chaff's only purpose is ultimately to serve the good of the wheat! Once the chaff has fulfilled its purpose in protecting the wheat it is thrown away while the true wheat goes on to feed, nourish and provide seed for more wheat harvests.

Are you ready for the next absolutely amazing thing? What separates or drives the chaff away from the wheat? Wind! BUT - not just any old wind. The word used in Psalm 1: 4 is ruach - 7307 - the word used to describe God's Holy Spirit. At the right time God's breathes into the life of the unbeliever separating them as chaff and in order to reveal His Harvest.

And - don't think of this as a gentle breeze. The word is nadap - 5086 and carries the idea of being driven by a strong or mighty wind. Get this - this verb is most often used in the passive tense. The chaff has no choice and no power over the wind. The wind accomplishes the work of separation and the chaff obeys (finally). The wicked cannot control the wind of God's Spirit; His judgement blows at His command.

Let's make some application. The enemy of God chooses unbelief and even in his willful rebellion actually serves the purposes of God to protect the true harvest for the right "season". The chaff serves at God's pleasure for the blessing of the joyful - happy - free man and can serve to increase the fruit-bearer's fruitfulness.

Only God can do that! Only our Heavenly Father can use rebellious, wicked, enemies and criminlas for His glorious work. Want an example? Go Read Acts 4 - I'd love to hear what the Holy Spirit teaches you.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Fruit In Season - Psalm 1:3b

He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.

Jesus said, "You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?" Matthew 7:16

The blessed - joyful - free man yields fruit, which is from the beautiful Hebrew word "nathan" which means to give or to place and conveys the idea that the tree produces an offering. In fact, one of the acceptable offerings to the LORD is of our fruit and indeed our "first fruits".

The idea of "offering" changes the whole picture of the blessed man. This joyful person's life produces fruit that is then offered back to God in worship and obedience and offered to others in service and love. So often we are tempted to look at this from the idea of "prosperity", if I obey God then He is obligated to "prosper" me, IE. give me blessings. Instead, the picture shifts to one who is blessed in order that he might return or offer up the blessing to the LORD. Does that sound familiar? It should! The LORD promised Abraham blessings upon blessings. Those blessings were never intended to be used up just for Abraham and his family but so much more was intended. God blessed Abraham that he might become a blessing. He has done the same for us.

Let's take a closer look at the word "fruit." The promise of Psalm 1:3 is that the blessed man will yield fruit (periy - 6539 - TCWDOT - page 919) that which is naturally produced, can be used figuratively of one's offspring or the result of one's deeds or manner of life. One key concept for the restoration of Israel is the hallmark of fruitfulness.

So much of Old Testament promises, Jesus' teaching and the Apostle's writings well up in my heart as I think about what it means to be fruit bearing.

  • You shall not eat the fruit of the tree that is in the center of the Garden...lest you die....

Be fruitful and multiply...

  • I will make you fruitful...
  • You will eat fruit that you did not plant...
  • A good tree cannot produce bad fruit...
  • A bad tree cannot produce good fruit...
  • By their fruits you will know them....
  • But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty fold and sixty fold and a hundredfold.....
  • Every branch that does not bear fruit is thrown into the fire...
  • Every branch that bears fruit, I prune it that it may bear more fruit...
  • By this is My Father glorified that you bear much fruit and so prove to be My disciples....
  • You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide...
  • But the fruit of the Spirit is love....
  • Walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God....
  • For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it....

The Lord has much to say about fruit and most of it has to do with fruit being the absolute witness of our lives. Jesus said it in multiple ways but the bottom line is this, we can talk all day about what we believe and what we hope but the veracity of our testimony is proven by the kind of fruit we bear. A couple of more observations about the text before we close today. God makes powerful promises to the free man. Promise one: you will yield fruit in season. The phrase "in season" is always determined by its context; for example, an orange tree doesn't begin to produce edible fruit for about three to four years. In other words, when the right amount of time has passed to to accomplish the pre-determined purpose then fruitfulness comes. There is a right season for fruitfulness and often we are guilty of accepting the world's timetable instead of waiting on the Lord's "season." Promise two: your leaf will not wither. Withering carries with it the idea of languishing, fading, wearing out or drying out. How is it that this tree doesn't wither? Its root system. The tree has been planted right by the water in order to avoid this dangerous condition of withering. Promise three: whatever the free man does shall be caused to prosper. The word for prosper is saleah - to rush, to break forth, to come mightily, and is often used to describe the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. It can also mean to be victorious in battle or the picture of a powerful weapon turning the war from defeat to victory. One more key to this word is that it is in the "causative" tense of the verb. Why is that important? You don't cause your self to prosper, Someone works on your behalf, Someone brings the victory for you and to you. I have to ask the question of myself...if you walk through the grove of my life what kind of fruit will you see, how does it taste (is it bitter or sweet), am I producing "in season" (remember the fig tree Jesus cursed because it should have been producing fruit and it wasn't), and most importantly does the fruit of my life cause others to give God much glory?

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Like a Tree Planted - Psalm 1:3a

He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
My Granddaddy is a citrus grower. He has weathered hands, a strong back and a keen eye for trees and fruit. On more than one occasion I have chased after him as he walked through the grove inspecting trees and predicting crops. I've heard him call trees "worthless", "sorry" or "good" - all based on things I saw but did not know how to interpret. He saw with understanding. His eyes could examine a tree - its leaves, its trunk and its blossoms or buds and he could predict the harvest it would yield.
Trees don't grow by themselves. Irrigation is a powerful tool, a precious commodity and Grandpa was determined not to waste the costly water on trees that wouldn't yield fruit. Often he has taken the axe to trees that were soaking up water and nutrients but yielding no fruit. All of that work was designed with the "good" trees in mind. If he could preserve and channel the water and nutrients to fruit bearing trees, his labor would not be in vain.
The lessons I learned in the grove watching my Granddaddy tend his fruit have taught me much about how God works in our lives. Our Heavenly Father is determined that we would be fruitful.

The verse begins with the root system of the joyful man and then focuses on the fruit. "He shall be like a tree planted..."

Let me digress for just a moment. I've been reviewing my Hebrew (it's been almost 20 years, so thank you for grace :) and have rediscovered some of the nuances of verb tenses and voices. Don't get nervous - just bear with me because this is crucial. The QAL is the basic verb tense in Hebrew comprising about 75% of all the verbs. Verbs have tenses (past, present, future - there's more but we will stick to the basics) and also have voices (active or passive - generally). The voice of the verb indicates whether the subject of the verb (ex. I ran down the street. I is the subject and ran is the verb.) is providing the action or if the subject is being acted upon by someone or something else. If a verb is passive it indicates the subject is receiving the action indicated (ex. I was hit by the ball when Chuck threw it to me.) In English we use "helping verbs" to show the voice but in many other languages it is Incorporated into the main verb.

Everybody okay? Here's why that matters. In the phrase, "and he shall be like a tree planted", "he" is the subject (the blessed - joyful - free man) and "planted" is the verb (QAL particple passive voice). Basically it means that being "planted" is a simple and continued action received by the blessed man.

In English what that means is that the tree did not plant itself, the tree did not choose where it was going to be planted or transplanted. It means that the tree was acted upon by an outside power to put the tree in its rightful and good place.

The tree was deliberately planted by the water by Someone who was determined that it should bear fruit.

And so were you!

Planted where? By rivers of water.

When I was in Israel a few years ago I was struck by the vegetation found in En Gedi. En Gedi and vegetation is practically an oxymoron. En Gedi is in the middle of the desert very close to the Dead Sea and Mt. Masada. Trust me when I say nothing grows there. Except in En Gedi. There are natural springs which are cool, refreshing, crystal clear and life giving. En Gedi is home to animals, birds, flowers and trees. For miles around all the terrain is rough hewn mountains, a life-less sea and shimmering sand. Then you come to En Gedi and its beauty can take your breath away.

Our lives in Christ are much like the En Gedi oasis. We are surrounded by the desert of the World and it is life-less indeed. Christ deliberately (trans)planted us in His own En Gedi, Himself, and waters us there with His Word (Eph. 5:26) and His Spirit (John 7:35).

So, what should we believe based on what we've just studied?

At least this: The LORD God Almighty took you out of the desert of the world and transplanted you by His Son and the Power of His Spirit into Himself. In Christ, you are watered with the Word and the Spirit!

Are you starting to see why this man is joyful - happy - free?

What is God teaching you as we study? What have you learned from your muttering about God's law? Is your heart delighting more in the LORD?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Psalms: An Introduction

"A Book of Praises" is the literal meaning of "Psalms" and it really is just that. A Book written over hundreds of years by multiple worshipers (about 6) on a myriad of occasions. Most of the time I fear we read the Psalms in a contextual vacuum. By that I mean, we read them as though author, date, time, place, occasion and purpose don't really matter. Often, we read them as though it is "all about me", but when we do that with God's Word it is dangerous indeed. Sometimes bad grammar speaks powerful truth..."that ain't nothin' good!" The 150 Psalms are generally divided into 5 books and are also sorted by content: Didactic - Teaching, Messianic - a song rejoicing in the Promise of the Messiah, Imprecatory - God please destroy my enemies, and Penitential - God please forgive my transgressions. The Psalms are an utterly human cry. It is the cry of the solitary soul in the midst of the darkness crying out to the One who made the darkness and the light. It is also the cry of God's people living in the tensions of the Kingdom and the World. The Psalms are promises recounted, deliverances wrought, sins atoned, glory revealed and salvation declared. These words were not sung in recording studios with back up singers. They were sung as fervent pleas and triumphant declarations by people who knew that God was their only hope. Some refer to Psalm 1 as the preface to the Psalms...and it can be read that way...a general understanding that there are two types of folks...the blessed and the wicked. "Blessed" is a noun and is NOT derived from the verb to bless - I was a little perplexed about that since most of the time the Hebrew and Greek languages use that formula. Blessed (eser - Strong's 835) = a state of bliss, always refers to man and never to God, it is poetic and exclamatory, frequently connected with wisdom, sometimes used to describe a person or nation who enjoys a relationship with God. (The Complete Word Study Dictionary, Old Testament - TCWSDOT - pages 108 - 109). Just FYI - the Hebrew verb to bless = barak - Strong's 1288 - to bless, to kneel or salute, comes from the noun for knee - to bend the knee - used towards God or people - ex. God blessed Abraham (Genesis 12:3). Here's the point, the blessed person is full of joy. You can see why! Keep reading! "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord,and on his law he meditates day and night." (ESV) Blessed - joyful - happy - free - is the man who, because God's law gives him light, makes the choice to look ahead and sees the consequences of trucking in the things of the world. Walk, stand and sit are the key verbs for the wicked man: Walk (halak - 1980) - to take a certain path under the advice of another, makes me think of the adulteress calling out to the simple man to come her way. Stand - amad - to stand, to establish, to abide, or to stay in the way (derek - 1870) - journey, manner, road or way of sinners. Sit (moshab - 4186) - to dwell, to remain, to abide in the seat of the scoffers (lits - 3917b) - scorners, mockers or deriders - those committed to evil. I find it interesting that in contrast to the wicked man, the blessed man does two key things. He delights and meditates! Delights - (chephets - 2656) delight, pleasure, care, desires, pleased, precious. Meditates - (hagah - 1897) - to moan, growl, utter, speak, muse:--declare, devise, mutter, ponder. In what does he delight and on what does he meditate? The TORAH - the law of God. Here's where we need to hang out for a little bit. Some may be saying, "but the Law doesn't apply to us anymore..." or others may say, "I can't keep the Law, trust me I've tried" or, "the Law depresses me, it just shows me how imperfect I am and that I can never measure up." But the blessed man delights and meditates on God's Law. So, as those truly blessed ones who know that Christ has fulfilled all of the Law on our behalf and as those who know that the Law was given to lead us to Christ - how can we follow the blessed man's example without become legalists? I'll answer it with questions: What is delightful about the Law of God? What can we learn, gain, see by meditating on it? What can we learn about who God is based on His law? What can we learn about His purposes? What are we to believe about His ways with man, His purposes for His people? What can we learn about ourselves and the world around us by delighting and meditating on the Law and what/who will that knowledge drive us towards? One of the meanings of meditate is "mutter" - I have this picture in my head of the joyful man walking around talking to himself about God's law. I feel better already since I talk to myself all the time. The dialogue the joyful man is engaged in is a steady stream of looking at the World around him through the lens of God's perfect Law and reminding himself of what is true, good, honorable, praiseworthy, excellent and free. Try muttering today, remind yourself constantly what is true about our God, I'm very sure our hearts will follow in delight!

The journey begins...

This wasn't my idea...blogging....especially since my first thought was, "do we really need another blogger?"
But I've joined the blogging world for at least one reason. I love to help people know God rightly and worship Him accordingly. The foundation for knowing Him is His Word, which is the only reliable standard for knowing Who He is, What He has declared and How we are to have relationship with Him.
Lots of blogs and talking heads try to tell us what to believe about God, many of them are wrong and some of them are right on. So, why add my voice to the mix? Because I love Jesus Christ and I want to help us believe rightly about Him, not based on emotion or superstition but according to His Word.
I'm starting in the Psalms and expect it to be a tumultuous journey...first post tomorrow...