Archive for August, 2011

August 31, 2011

How God Is Not Like the News Media

by Bethany

Relevant Text: Ps. 4:7
Full Text: Ps. 4 + Ps. 5 + Ps. 9 + Ps. 10

Turning on the News | Over the weekend, while waiting for Hurricane Irene, most of us were glued to the news, trying to get as much information as possible to allay our fears. Yet, how reliable were our sources – television, internet, radio? As Adam Gopnik suggests, not very. After all, he argues, the real purpose of the news is “not to get you to do anything, but to get you so scared that all you can do is keep the television, or radio, on” [1].

Turning to the Lord | Going to God for guidance is not like watching the news in – at least – three important ways. First, God doesn’t merely watch and guess what’s coming; He decides what’s coming. As David sang, “The LORD reigns forever … proclaim among the nations what he has done” [2]. Second, He’s not trying to get our attention through fear so that His ratings will go up; He wants us to run to Him fearlessly because He knows that what we’re really looking for isn’t information – but true safety and happiness – and He knows that we’ll only find those things in Him. As David prayed, “You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound” [3] and, “[L]et all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy … For surely, O LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield” [4]. Finally, God doesn’t just tell or show us what’s coming; He talks with us about it. He hears our fears and responds to them. As David also prayed, “Know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself; the LORD will hear when I call to him” [5] and, “Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my sighing. Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray. In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation” [6].

Prayer | Lord, We confess that, although You’re an ever present help in trouble, we often search other sources for hope. Yet, their information only makes us more anxious because it’s inadequate. Only You can give us true peace, comfort, confidence and safety. So, lift our eyes to the cross as we see Jesus securing our certain future and relationship with You. Amen.

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[1] Adam Gopnik, “Hurricane Irene: Storm Warnings.” The New Yorker. 28 August 2011. After taking a month-long sabbatical in Cape Cod in a house without internet or television, Gopnik was reminded of two obvious things about the news: (1) “that the media, television particularly, are amplifying devices in which tiny kernels of information become vast, terrifying structures of speculation,” and (2) “that the reasons for this are essentially non-ideological; frightened people need news for reassurance, and want to get a more heightened experience by being frightened still more, and the business the people supplying the fright are in … is not really that of dispensing information but of assembling enough listeners or readers, preferably still caught in the same spirit of credulous attentiveness, to offer to advertisers to keep subscribing.”  |  [2] Ps. 9:7, 11 NIV 1984  |  [3] Ps. 4:7 NIV 1984  |  [4]  Ps. 5:11-12 NIV 1984  |  [5]  Ps. 4:3 NIV 1984  |  [6]  Ps. 5:1-3 NIV 1984

August 30, 2011

He Won’t Stop Working on You Until He’s Done

by Bethany

Relevant Text: 1 Chron. 28:9
Full Text: 1 Chron. 28:1-29:20 + 2 Sam 23:1-7

Hurricanes | As it turned out, Hurricane Irene wasn’t all that bad for NYC. Yes, there was damage and inconvenience but – compared to Katrina in New Orleans or Ivan in Pensacola (my hometown) – Irene was mild [1]. No matter its weakness, however, as we anticipated its landing, Irene caused some of us to think about life, meaning, providence and love.

Legacy | As David neared the end of his life, he was thinking about similar things. He wanted to make sure his son Solomon sought God’s kingdom: “Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you” [2]. And he wanted to make sure his people pursued God’s presence. So, he encouraged them to contribute to the Temple by telling them about the great riches he had already given. Knowing that God had inspired their love and generosity, David thanked God: “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand” [3].

Christ | David didn’t all of a sudden decide he was passionately in love with God at the end of his life. Rather, throughout his life, God shaped David’s heart to love Him more and more and to know that everything came from Him – even his offerings. Most of us are the same. We may have stops and starts, but God uses our experiences to teach us throughout our lives that He’ll be our help and refuge, joy and delight, savior and shepherd. And, thankfully, He has promised that He won’t stop working in us until He’s done: “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” [4].

Prayer | Lord, Although the circumstances of our lives are unpredictable and confusing, You are constant and faithful. We may waver in our faith and love for You, but You aren’t finished with us yet. Give us opportunities and experiences that draw us to You and shape our hearts to increasingly love and know You. Help us to cherish all that You are and all that You give us, especially salvation in Christ. Amen.

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[1] As one New Yorker tweeted, “If it weren’t for Internet and cable news, how many NYers would know hurricane just passed through?”  Geoff Berman, RTed by NYMetro. Here.  |  [2] 1 Chron. 28:9 ESV  |  [3] 1 Chron. 29:14 NIV  |  [4] Phil. 1:6 NIV

August 29, 2011

The Providence of God

by Bethany

Relevant Text: 1 Chron. 26:13
Full Text: 1 Chron 26-27

Lots | Israel’s center of worship was the Temple. Not only was it the place where the high priest made atonement for the nation, it was also the place that symbolized God’s presence with His people [1]. Thus, everything about the Temple was precious and sacred and, therefore, everything about it was handled with care and holiness. Yet, when it came to picking gatekeepers, the Israelites merely cast lots like drawing straws: “These divisions of the gatekeepers … had duties for ministering in the temple of the LORD … Lots were cast for each gate, according to their families” [2]. Was this appropriate decision-making or were they being flippant?

Providence | Although the law had many regulations concerning the Temple, it said nothing about how to pick the gatekeepers. Thus, it was perfectly appropriate for them to cast lots. As Solomon wrote, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD” [3]. Although we have absolute freedom in our decision-making, even the smallest things are determined by God. His providence governs the world and everything in it [4], which is good news for those who trust in Him. As the Heidelberg Catechism confesses: 

  • What do you mean by “the providence of God”? The almighty and everywhere present power of God; whereby, as it were by his hand, he upholds and governs heaven, earth, and all creatures; so that herbs and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, meat and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, yea, and all things come, not by chance, but by his fatherly hand.
  • What advantage is it to us to know that God has created, and by his providence does still uphold, all things? That we may be patient in adversity; thankful in prosperity; and that in all things, which may hereafter befall us, we place our firm trust in our faithful God and Father, that nothing shall separate us from his love; since all creatures are so in his hand, that without his will they cannot as so much as move [5].

Prayer | Lord, We praise You for Your providence – especially in small decisions where we don’t have clear direction from the Bible. If everything in our lives depended on us alone, we would be hopeless. So, we thank You for Your great love that somehow has given us freedom in the midst of Your providence. Amen.

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[1] Inside the Holy of Holies was the Ark of the Covenant, which was the portable shrine that symbolized the dwelling place of the LORD. Laden with gold and holy to the touch (e.g., Uzzah), the Ark contained the two tablets of Moses, the rod of Aaron, and a pot of manna – thus, reminding the people of God’s faithfulness in carrying them through the wilderness, across the Red Sea and into the Promised Land.  |  [2] 1 Chron. 26:12-13 NIV  |  [3] Prov. 16:33 NIV  |  [4] For a wonderful sermon about how we are absolutely free and absolutely determined at the same time and about how confusing that is to us, see Tim Keller, “Your Plans; God’s Plans.” 12 December 2004. Also, evidence of God’s providence in governing the world is found throughout the Bible – the ravens (1 Kgs 17:4); a plant and a worm (Jonah 4:6-7); flies (Ex. 8:21); famine and hail and locusts (Ps. 105:16, 32, 34); a bee (Is. 7:18); the wind and the sea (Mk. 4:41); spirits (Mk. 1:27); kings (Dan. 2:21); the universe (Heb. 1:3).  |  [5] Questions 27 & 28 of The Heidelberg Confession. For full text and supporting Scripture, see here.

August 26, 2011

Where do you find God?

by Bethany

Relevant Text: 1 Chron. 23:1
Full Text: 1 Chron. 23-25

Search | Once you’ve taken the leap of faith and decided that God exists, where do you find Him? At the beach or the park? Among widows and orphans? One website suggests learning “the language of a pet” as a “unique way” to experience God [1]. Which one of these ways – if any – is right?

Temple | Although David wanted to build a house for the Lord, God didn’t let him: “Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? … The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish his kingdom forever” [2]. Then, “when David was old and full of years, he made his son Solomon king over Israel” [3], giving him instructions about the Temple and its personnel. In 957 BCE, Solomon finished the Temple, but after the Babylonians destroyed it in 586 BCE, Darius the Great rebuilt it in 515 BCE. Thus, for hundreds of years, Israelite worship centered on the Temple, which was the physical symbol of God’s presence with His people.

Advocate | Then Jesus came and spoke controversially about the Temple. He talked about destroying and rebuilding it in three days [4] and about the primacy of how we worship over where we worship [5]. Moreover, He spoke of Himself as a priest, offering access to God [6] and forgiveness of sins [7]. Although such blasphemy got Him destroyed, He was rebuilt in three days and ascended into heaven. Today, Jesus sits at the right hand of God and, therefore, we don’t need to go through a priest at a temple to find God; instead, God receives us directly into His presence. As Jesus said, “[Y]ou will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you” [8].

Prayer | Lord, You command us to be holy as You are holy. Yet, we have no righteousness of our own. Thus, we praise You for accepting Christ’s righteousness for us. Although You don’t care where we worship, You care how we worship. Therefore, give us Your Spirit and Truth so that You are the center of our worship. Amen.

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[1] Daniel Rebant, Finding God in Nature.  |  [2] 2 Sam. 7:5-6, 11-13 NIV  |  [3] 1 Chron. 23:1 NIV  |  [4] See Jn. 2  |  [5] See Jn. 4:20ff  |  [6] See Jn. 14:6; Heb. 10:19-20; Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25; 1 Jn. 2:1; Heb. 4:15-16; Jn. 14:6.  |  [7] See Mk. 2; Mt. 9  |  [8] Jn. 16:26-27 NIV

August 25, 2011

In the Waiting Room

by Bethany

Relevant Text: 2 Sam. 24:10
Full Text: 2 Sam. 24 + 1 Chron. 21-22

Trust | Everyone longs for something – single people want spouses, married people want children, unemployed people want jobs, aging people want health. No matter who you are, you want something. Yet, God has made a spectacular promise to you as you sit in the waiting room: “Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him” [1]. And no one knew this better than David, who defeated a giant with a mere slingshot and waited years to be enthroned: “Now this I know … Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God” [2].

Census | When David took a census of his military, however, he revealed a less than confident heart in God’s promises to act on his behalf. Worried about his succession and power, he decided to count his great army. After nine months and twenty days, Joab reported there were 1.3 million soldiers in Israel and Judah. No sooner than the words were given, however, David was convicted: “David was conscience-stricken after he counted the fighting men, and he said to the LORD, ‘I have sinned greatly in what I have done. Now, LORD, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing’” [3].

Mercy | Not only did David have faith that God was worth more than a million soldiers, he also knew that God was merciful – even when his faith wavered. Therefore, as he faced the Lord’s discipline for his actions, he said, “Let us fall into the hands of the LORD, for his mercy is great” [4]. Thus, seventy thousand people died of plague – until the Lord proclaimed, “Enough!” [5] and stayed His hand. As David knew, “The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love” [6].

Prayer | Lord, As we sit in the waiting room, increase our faith so that we know to trust in You, not count our chariots. And when our faith wavers in our confidence, forgive us and run quickly to love us. For we know that, although Your mercy didn’t come cheaply on the cross, it did come freely and generously because Christ shed His blood and then You proclaimed, “Enough!” [7] Your love satisfies Your judgment. Amen.

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[1] Is. 64:4 NIV | [2] Ps. 20:6, 7 NIV | [3] 2 Sam. 24:10 NIV | [4] 2 Sam. 24:14 NIV | [5] 2 Sam. 24:16 NIV | [6] Ps. 145:8 NIV | [7] Literally, “It is finished!” (Jn. 19:30 NIV)

August 24, 2011

Satisfying Our Longing for Splendor

by Bethany

Relevant Text: 2 Sam. 22:32
Full Text: 2 Sam. 21-22 + 1 Chron. 20:4-8 + Ps. 18

Mirage | In 2006, I spent a week at Hotel Le Mirage in Tangier and was treated like royalty because my friend – the former U.S. Ambassador to Morocco – knew the owners. Although they gave me a different suite every night and a driver to show me around the area, their impeccable service couldn’t outshine the spectacular ocean views. Le Mirage sits at the northwest corner of Africa, where the Atlantic meets the Mediterranean. Its private beach is so breathtaking that its access is limited only to hotel guests and the King of Morocco himself. So, every morning, I took my coffee down to the water’s edge and satisfied my longing for splendor.

Splendor | David was a man after God’s own heart – not because he was perfect – but because he longed to be satisfied in the splendor of God’s majesty. Although he was an adulterer, a murderer and a failed arbiter of justice, David continually repented and sought refuge in God alone: “The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer … He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters … For who is God besides the LORD? And who is the Rock except our God? It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of the deer; he enables me to stand on the heights” [1].

Penitence | God is not impressed with our piety but our penitence. Coming to Him with hands full of our own righteousness is like digging a ditch in the sand at the ocean, filling it with water, and then saying, “Look! Do you see my ditch! Isn’t it cool?” God wants us to turn around and see the ocean, as we walk along the shore and delight in His splendor. He wants us to see our sin, turn to the cross, and say, “Look! Do you see that love? Is it not spectacular?”

Prayer | Lord, We long to be satisfied in Your splendor because we know how much we have been forgiven. Show us how little our righteousness or achievements impress You and give us hearts that seek Your forgiveness daily. Open the eyes of our hearts to stand in awe of Your majesty. Amen.

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[1] 2 Sam. 22:2-3, 17, 32-34 NIV

August 23, 2011

The Hopelessness of a Broad Definition of “Sin”

by Bethany

Relevant Text: 2 Sam. 18:33
Full Text: 2 Sam. 18-20

Omission | Many times, when we think about how we have failed to please God, we think of our sins of commission – that is, those things that we have done that we ought not to have done. Yet, there are also sins of omission – that is, those things that we have not done that we ought to have done. Unfortunately, as Paul wrote, sins of commission and omission coexist in our hearts: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” [1].

David | Although David was furious when Amnon raped Tamar, he did nothing. He failed to administer justice and, then, failed to discourage others from taking revenge. As a result, Absalom murdered Amnon and, again, David did nothing. Then, although Absalom rebelled against the throne, David “longed to go to Absalom” [2] and, when his troops were quashing the insurrection, David told Joab, “Be gentle with the young man Absalom for my sake” [3]. Joab, however, did not listen; instead, he “took three javelins in his hand and plunged them into Absalom’s heart” [4]. Upon hearing the news of Absalom’s death, David mourned: “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you – O Absalom, my son, my son!” [5]. Thus, David lost his third son [6].

Consequences | James wrote, “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins” [7]. With such a broad definition of sin – commission and omission – is there any hope? Recognizing his own indictment under such a charge, Paul wrote, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” [8] Yet, he continued, “Praise be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord! … [T]here is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death[9].

Prayer | Lord, By defining “sin” so broadly, You have shown us the magnitude of our sin. Yet, You don’t do this to increase our guilt; rather, You do it to inspire our hearts to run to You and long for the law of the Spirit of life. Your blood is so powerful that it covers all our sins – commission and omission. Therefore, although our hands are scarlet, You have made them white as snow. Amen.

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[1] Rom. 7:15, 19 NIV 1984  |  [2] 2 Sam. 13:39 NIV 1984  |  [3] 2 Sam. 18:5 NIV 1984  |  [4] 2 Sam. 18:14 NIV 1984  |  [5] 2 Sam. 18:33 NIV 1984  |  [6] David lost (1) the son that he had as a result of his adultery with Bathsheba, (2) Amnon who was murdered by Absalom as revenge for Tamar’s rape, and (3) Absalom who was killed as a rebel by Joab.  |  [7] Jms 4:17 NIV 1984  |  [8] Rom. 7:24-25 NIV 1984  |  [9] Rom. 7:25; 8:1-2 NIV 1984

August 22, 2011

The Vice of All Vices

by Bethany

Relevant Text: 2 Sam. 17:11
Full Text: 2 Sam. 16-17 + Ps. 7

Vice | C.S. Lewis wrote, “There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; which every one in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else; and of which hardly any people, except Christians, ever imagine that they are guilty themselves … There is no fault which makes a man more unpopular, and no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves. And the more we have it ourselves, the more we dislike it in others. The vice I am talking of is Pride or Self-Conceit: and the virtue opposite to it, in Christian morals, is called Humility … According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice” [1].

Flattery | In his rebellion, Absalom had two counselors – Ahithophel and Hushai – but he didn’t know that Hushai was loyal to David because Hushai concealed his motives, tickling Absalom’s ears with flattery [2]. Thus, when Absalom sought advice, he followed Hushai’s misleading counsel. Never mind that Hushai’s plan gave David more time to escape or that Ahithophel suggested the opposite – Absalom couldn’t see reality because he craved flattery. He wanted Hushai’s words to be true: “Let all Israel … be gathered to you, with you yourself leading them in battle” [3]. Yet, his pride led to his fall [4].

Distortion | Pride is dangerous because it distorts; it’s inherently deceptive of its victim. Absalom dreamed of having Israel worship him – but, in fact, he was nothing more than a mere rebel against a rightful king. Unlike Absalom, however, a true king came – Jesus. Although He could’ve come in grandeur, He didn’t. His kingdom – unlike all others – was based on humility, not pride: “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant … he humbled himself and became obedient to death” [5].

Prayer | Lord, We confess that our hearts are often prideful, especially when others praise us. Yet, we know that we are hopeless without You and totally dependent on You. As we long to be faithful subjects in Your humble kingdom, kill the root of pride in our hearts and open our ears to hear truth. Amen.

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Footnotes:  [1]  C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity.  |  [2]  2 Sam. 16:16 NIV  |  [3]  2 Sam. 17:11 NIV  |  [4]  See 2 Sam. 18  |  [5]  Phil. 2:5-11 NIV

August 19, 2011

Your Love Is Better Than Life

by Bethany

Relevant Text: Ps. 63:3
Full Text: 2 Sam. 15 + Ps. 3 + Ps. 63

The Pursuit of Happiness | The signers of the Declaration of Independence weren’t the only ones who thought the pursuit of happiness was a worthy endeavor. Lewis said, “It is a Christian duty, as you know, for everyone to be as happy as he can” [1], and Pascal argued that our longing for happiness was unavoidable: “All men seek happiness without exception … This is the motive of all the actions of all men, even those who contemplate suicide” [2]. Indeed, God designs us to seek happiness in all things because He knows that the fullest and most lasting joy can only be found in Him [3].

The Wilderness – Again | When Absalom became heir to the crown, he “stole the hearts of the men of Israel” [4] and incited rebellion against his father. Thus, David became a fugitive again – yet, this time, rather than running as a civilian from King Saul, he was running as King from his own son. Although this saddened him greatly [5], he sang, “Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you” [6]. For David, God was better than life – therefore, by implication, God was better than anything life had to offer, e.g., his throne, his physical safety, his palace, his material comforts, his fame.

Half-Hearted Creatures | Our greatest barrier to pursuing our own happiness is that we are too easily satisfied. Rather than seeing God as better than life and all that life has to offer, we settle for lesser goods. As Lewis noted, “Indeed, if we consider … the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us … We are far too easily pleased” [7]. Indeed, there is nothing that could bring us more joy and happiness than believing and living in God’s promises to us.

Prayer | Lord, Your promises are unblushing. You have promised to act for those who wait on You [8] and work everything out for the good of those who love You [9]. Yet, we confess that we have settled in our affections. Therefore, this morning, as we prepare for our days, make us restless in lesser goods until we find Your love and, in turn, the love that leads us to love others [10]. Amen. [11] [12]

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[1] Sheldon Vanauken, A Severe Mercy. (New York: Harper and Row, 1977), p. 189. (a letter from Lewis to Vanauken).

[2] Blaise Pascal, Pascal’s Pensees, trans. by W.F. Trotter (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1958), p. 113.

[3] The Christian faith is not about intellectually assenting to the truth about Jesus and the cross; God passionately cares about how we feel about that truth. Do we love it? Do we rejoice in it? Do we cherish Him? Thus, the Bible repeatedly tells us things like, “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7 NIV, emphasis mine) or even commands things like, “Rejoice and be glad because great is your reward in heaven” (Matt. 5:12 NIV, emphasis mine).

[4] 2 Sam. 15:6 NIV  |  [5] 2 Sam. 15:30 NIV  |  [6] Ps. 63:3 NIV  |  [7] C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory.  |  [8] Is. 64:4 NIV  |  [9] Rom. 8:28 NIV

[10] Yes, pursuing the greatest possible good in our lives leads us to Christ. Yet, it also leads us to others. For we know that Jesus said that the greatest commandment was, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” And then he said that the second was like it, “Love your neighbor as yourself” – thus, implying that loving our neighbors was like loving God (See Matt. 22:36-40 NIV). Therefore, pursuing our greatest good today would lead us not only to love God but also to love others because that is the way that He designed it.

[11] Two parallel parables illustrate the value and joy of pursuing the kingdom of God above all else: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it” (Matt. 13:44-45 NIV)

[12] John Piper illustrates how the pursuit of our joy and the goal of the glory of God are not at odds – in fact, they are one in the same – for our satisfaction in God actually brings Him glory. In his outstanding poem to his wife on their 25th wedding anniversary, he shows how delight for someone actually honors them more than duty: Poem, For Noel On Our 25th Wedding Anniversary (19 Dec. 1993).

August 18, 2011

Living in the Forgiveness of God

by Bethany

Relevant Text: Ps. 103:12
Full Text: 2 Sam. 13-14 + 1 Chron. 20:2-3

Rape | Amnon was David’s oldest son and, therefore, heir apparent to the throne. He was also a romantic:“Amnon son of David fell in love with Tamar, the beautiful sister of Absalom son of David. Amnon became so obsessed with his sister Tamar that he made himself ill” [1]. Knowing incest was prohibited, Amnon raped Tamar. Then, “he hated her” [2] and discarded her. Unmarriageable and rejected, Tamar “put her hands on her head and went away, weeping aloud as she went” [3]. When David heard what happened,“he was furious” [4] but did nothing to punish Amnon. Instead, Tamar moved in with her brother Absalom as“a desolate woman” [5] and, two years later, Absalom murdered Amnon. When David heard about it, he“wept very bitterly” [6].

Shame | Rape is dreadful. As Mark Dever observes, “To take what God intended as the depths of mutual love and care and to make it about the violence of one person against another must be one of the most demonic distortions of God’s good gifts there is” [7]. And although David had the responsibility of disciplining his son, he refused. Rather than confronting Amnon, David avoided him because he could only hear echoes of his adultery with Bathsheba [8]. His shame over his past sin kept him from administering justice [9]. Although God had forgiven him, he wasn’t living in God’s forgiveness.

Finished | The sad and unavoidable truth is that we are all sinners. Yet, even though God calls us to repent of our sin, He does not want us to live in guilt over it. Instead, He wants us to feel His amazing grace and forgiveness. This is why He repeatedly tells us that our sin is nowhere near us: “as far as the east is from the west, so far as he removed our transgressions from us” [10]. Indeed, God put our sins in the palm of Jesus’ hands and nailed them to the cross – once and for all [11]. Thus, for the Christian, there is no unforgiven sin; it has all been punished: “It is finished” [12].

Prayer | Lord, In Christ, You punished all our sin and canceled our indebtedness. Yet, we confess that, like David, our guilty consciences sometimes accuse us. But Christ has pled our case and received our judgment. Now, when we fall, we will rise because You brought us out of darkness and into the light. Use us for Your great purposes and let us live in Your forgiveness daily. Amen. [13]

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Footnotes: [1]  2 Sam. 13:1-2 NIV  |  [2]  2 Sam. 13:15 NIV  |  [3]  2 Sam. 13:19 NIV  |  [4]  2 Sam. 13:21 NIV  |  [5]  2 Sam. 13:20 NIV  |  [6]  2 Sam. 13:36 NIV  |  [7]  Mark Dever, “King’s Life Is Messed Up Bad.” 20 December 2009. Amnon never loved Tamar; his sinful desires merely deceived him into thinking that his lust was love.  |  [8] See 843 Acres. “The Outrageous Forgiveness of God.” 17 August 2011.  |  [9] Moreover, his delay (or denial) in administering justice nearly cost him his throne and, in fact, did eventually cost him the lives of two of his sons.  |  [10]  Ps. 103:12 NIV&nbsp ; |  [11] See Col. 2:13-14  |  [12]   John 19:30 NIV  |  [13]  John Piper, “How to Deal with the Guilt of Se*xual Failure for the Glory of Christ and His Global Cause.” 4 January 2007. (I was fortunate enough to be at Passion 2007 when Piper preached this sermon and, even though it has been nearly five years since I heard it, I am constantly going back to it. Although its title is how to deal with sexual failure, its truth cuts across all failures. The key issue in the sermon is what to do after we sin – are we guided by guilt or grace?) (To avoid possible spam filters, I added the *).

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