Saturday, March 01, 2014

The Well: February 24-28

The Well: February 24-28

Feb. 24: Matthew 27,28

In the first verses of chapter 27 the desire of Jesus' opponents to be done with him reaches its conclusion. The conspiracy has brought together the religious elite, as well as Jesus' own disciple Judas. But behind the scenes has been Satan, the great enemy of God. 

Matthew's account of the death of Christ comes with none of the modern fascination on his suffering. Rather, he takes great care to demonstrate that the various parts of the event happened according to God's plan, in fulfillment of prophecies made centuries before. 

Jesus stands as the one wrongfully accused yet silent before his accusers. Despite the fact that he was guilty of no crime, and had gone about the land doing good and teaching God's truth, the people are adamant in the choice to have a known criminal released to them. In all of this we see a display of the fact that it is human nature to "suppress the truth in unrighteousness" (see: Romans 1:18).

Since only the Romans could deliver a death sentence, Jesus is sent to Pilate where he is condemned to crucifixion. He is mocked and then led away to die. 

As he dies, Jesus shouts "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" This memorable first line of Psalm 22 points the onlookers back to this prophetic Scripture where the elements of his death are described. The cross is no accident. It has been God's plan from long ago.

Jesus is buried, the tomb is sealed and a guard set. Yet, nothing can prevent God's plan from being fulfilled. What man has meant for evil, God has meant for good, and the resurrection validates Jesus Christ as God, and sets the scene for the mission of the Kingdom to be taken to all nations. The charge given to the disciples by the Risen Christ still stands as the marching orders of the Church.

Prayer: Father, I thank you for the cross, where Jesus took my sin on himself and bore the punishment I deserved. I thank you for the empty tomb where the power of death was forever broken. Lord, help me carry the message of Christ into my world today, knowing that you are with me always, even to the end of the age. In Jesus Name' Amen.

Feb. 25: Psalms 1,2

The book of Psalms, known as the Psalter, is made up of 150 psalms written by several authors over many centuries. The current form of the book shows that someone collected these particular psalms and put them into a certain order. It is apparent that the first two psalms were specifically placed at the beginning in order to give a certain summary to the whole collection. 

Psalm looks at the individual's way of life from the point of view of God's blessing while Psalm 2 looks at all of history from the point of view of God's sovereign plan.

Psalm 1 describes the one who is blessed of God as a man focused, not on the enticements of this sinful world, but on the word of God. The picture of a tree with deep roots, able to access water even in a desert place, represents a life whose roots have been driven deeply down into the truth of God. Such a life is truly prosperous in God's eyes.

But the benefit of living according to God's Word is not merely for this life. Rather, the one who is covered with the blessing of God will find that, in the end, life and not judgment will be his eternal reward, because he has been "known" by The Lord. In the end we find that the blessed man is the one on whom God has poured out his redeeming love.

Psalm 2 takes a "space shuttle" view of human history. This psalm, made up of 4 scenes, begins with a picture of the rebellious heart of mankind that seeks to sever any responsibility to Almighty God. Scene 2 shows that, in great contrast to the rebellious cacophony of sound on earth, heaven is calm. God's response to earthly rebellion is simple: I have installed my King!

Scene 3 describes the coronation of the King. He has been given all the nations as his inheritance, and he will do with them according to his will.

In the last scene the narrator returns to address the rebellious leaders of mankind. "Think again", he tells them. Instead of rebellion they would be better off to serve The Lord, to honor the king, and seek refuge in him. 

Prayer: Great God, thank you for the truth of your Word, and for the assurance that when I trust in you I will know your blessing. Help me to choose those things that honor you today, to serve you with fear and rejoice in your great love, regardless of what I face today. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Feb. 26: Psalms 3,4

These two psalms, from the pen of King David, are pleas for help and deliverance in time of great distress. 

Psalm 3 describes a situation where David's enemies (the forces of his own son Absalom who has raised a rebellion against him) are mocking his faith in God. They have surrounded him and believe God has forsaken him. Yet, David cries out to the God of his salvation, and finds him faithful.

As a result, he can lay down and sleep, waking up in the knowledge that, as God has preserved him through the night he will also preserve him from his enemies. 

We see David no longer afraid, but courageous and ready to take up the fight even as he acknowledges that the victory will come from God. This way of looking at the relationship between our diligence and God's sovereignty is found throughout the Bible (see: Phil 2:12,13).

Psalm 4 is an Evening Prayer. It is David's cry, not for salvation from enemies, but for strength to continue walking the paths of righteousness. In vs. 2 he challenges the unrighteous around him to recognize that God is near to the godly man. His advice: "be angry and do not sin." The idea here is anger aimed at personal sins, at one's own deficiencies. This is the righteous anger that arises when we recognize unrighteousness taking hold in our hearts. 

The result of such adamant trust in God and love for righteousness will be the ability to rest in peace throughout the night. The God in whom he trusts will insure his safety.

Prayer: O Lord, there is no other like you! I trust you because you have always shown yourself to be faithful. Father, I don’t know what today will hold, and I do know that too often my faith seems to fade away in the face of temptation and challenge. Today it is my desire to be faithful to you, as you always have been to me, through the power of Christ in me, Amen.

Feb. 27: Psalm 5,6

Psalm 5 is a Morning Prayer. David begins the day acknowledging that God is his King and God, and the one that is in charge of his life. The prayer is David's reminder to himself that God does not take pleasure in wickedness. Those who walk in pride, and are given to deceit will not dwell with God. 

But those who walk in humility, who speak truth and desire to walk in righteousness will find that God is their refuge. He will make their hearts rejoice, even as he covers them with protection and favor. 

Psalm 6 finds David in despair. The cause is not given but it seems that David's own transgressions have brought about his misery. He cries to God for grace rather than angry rebuke knowing that the covenant God has made with him cannot be broken. David is greatly troubled, and rather than flee from God, his situation drives back to the God of his salvation.

It must be seen that the life of those loved by God will not always be free of adversity. David is in anguish, and his night is filled with weeping and grief. He is broken, and he has come to the realization that only God can bring healing and deliverance. 

This is where God wants him, and where we must all dwell daily. Too often we live according to our own desires, fueled by our own strength, forgetting that it is only in God that we can truly live.

Prayer: Father, like David there are things in my life that distress me. Some of them come from my own pride and selfish desires. Lord, help me to prefer your ways today, to walk in your truth, and not give place to my pride, knowing that all you have for me is always my best option, through Jesus Christ my Lord, Amen.

Feb. 28: Psalm 7,8

In Psalm 7 we find David in trouble again. He is being pursued by those who want to destroy him. He considers that his distress may be God's judgment and searches his heart for sinful actions that may have brought on God's discipline. He asks The Lord to judge him and find that his integrity is intact. 

David finds refuge in the scrutiny of God knowing that God sees everything correctly. Though his enemies believe he is worthy of death, David trust God's view, and calls on God to be his defender. The evil of the wicked will come upon their own heads, but as for David, he will give thanks to The Lord and trust him to do what is best and right. 

Psalm 8 is a glorious tribute to the majesty of God, the Great King. The Psalm makes use of an inclusio, a literary device that acts as a set of bookends. In this case, the first half of vs. 1, and all of vs. 9 are the bookends and show that the author's intention is to extoll the grandeur of God.

Two elements of God's creation are singled out as reflections of his majesty. First, the heavens are a magnificent demonstration of God's power, creativity, and position as sovereign creator. In contrast, mankind seems rather small and insignificant. Yet, God has crowned mankind with glory and honor. And it is this honor bestowed that makes mankind a second great reflection of God's majesty.

The greatness of mankind stems not from our own abilities but from the position we hold. We are God's representatives, created as his image. God has granted to mankind the power to act in his stead in caring for creation and managing it for his glory. And in so doing, we are to demonstrate our dependence upon the one who alone is "majestic in all the earth!"

Prayer: O Lord, my Lord, how truly majestic you are! Every morning when a new day arrives I am blessed to be yours, and to have you as my guide and refuge. Lord, today will bring challenges as well as opportunities. In both you'll need to help me act and react in ways that reflect your glory, and witness to your grace in my life. Use me today, Lord, as you see fit, through Jesus Christ my Savior, Amen.


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