Facts and Harsh Realities

Scripture Focus: Proverbs 19.6-8
6 Many curry favor with a ruler, 
and everyone is the friend of one who gives gifts. 
7 The poor are shunned by all their relatives— 
how much more do their friends avoid them! 
Though the poor pursue them with pleading, 
they are nowhere to be found. h 
8 The one who gets wisdom loves life; 
the one who cherishes understanding will soon prosper.

Psalm 83.1-4
1 O God, do not remain silent; 
do not turn a deaf ear, 
do not stand aloof, O God. 
2 See how your enemies growl, 
how your foes rear their heads. 
3 With cunning they conspire against your people; 
they plot against those you cherish. 
4 “Come,” they say, “let us destroy them as a nation, 
so that Israel’s name is remembered no more.”

Reflection: Facts and Harsh Realities
By John Tillman

When we say “scripture is true,” oftentimes we mean that it is the true word of God—that it is God’s chosen means of self-revelation—the message of the gospel. However, that is not all we mean when we say that scripture is true. Sometimes the scripture being “true” just means it is spitting straight, cold, hard facts. 

Harsh facts of life are inked in black and white in Proverbs. No punches are pulled. “The poor have no friends.” “Bribes work.” “Fools die.”

These kinds of statements aren’t endorsements of these conditions or events. They are merely factual observations that are meant to encourage students toward wisdom. When Proverbs tells us that the poor have few friends, the writers are not advising us to avoid their friendship. Rather than endorsing transactional relationships and practical concerns, the wisdom of the Bible encourages impractical friendships and helping those who cannot help us in return.

The wisdom of the Bible does not come from isolated religious hermits. The writers of Proverbs and the rest of scripture lived in the real world. They knew corruption. They were acquainted with grief. They bore the burden of oppression. They tasted the lash of abusive leaders. They knew more brutal horrors of war than we do. 

Among the harshest of realities are the realities of war. Writing this post on Friday, who knows how much further the war in Ukraine may spread by Monday. Uncertainty abounds.

I’m personally connected to some Baptist mission work in Ukraine through a seminary classmate. With non-Ukrainian workers now evacuated, the group’s posts are tense with concern and vibrant with faith. The pastors and churches they support in Eastern Ukraine are in real, tangible danger. As they share pictures of their children huddled in shelters…harsh realities surround them.

We don’t turn to scripture to avoid harsh realities but to face them. Pray continually this week over the harsh realities of war. Ukraine’s war has caught more headlines than most, but hardly a month goes by without some conflict that costs lives somewhere in the world.

The Bible acknowledges these harsh realities side-by-side with aspirational faith that justice will be done. Liars, lunatics, and war criminals will come to their end and be rewarded in kind for the evil that they do. God will not remain silent or stand aloof. He is with the suffering and the dying and those responsible will face justice.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Deliverance belongs to the Lord. Your blessing be upon your people! — Psalm 3.8

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 19 (Listen – 3:09)
Psalm 83-84 (Listen – 3:20)

Read more about Worship and Politics
I have never heard anyone say that a politically tinged sermon which agreed with their politics was “too political.”

Read more about Are We Proud of the Prideful?
May we be and see better leaders in the mold of Christ rather than the world.

Worship and Politics

Psalm 83.17-18
May they ever be ashamed and dismayed;
   may they perish in disgrace.
Let them know that you, whose name is the Lord—
   that you alone are the Most High over all the earth.

Reflection: Worship and Politics
By John Tillman

People often complain that preachers, Christian leaders, or Christian musicians should, “stay out of politics.” This seems to only be expressed by those whose politics have been challenged on a biblical basis. I have never heard anyone say that a politically tinged sermon which agreed with their politics was “too political.”

Here, Charles Spurgeon analyzes Asaph’s Psalm 82 (which we read yesterday) but his analysis could be applied to any of Asaph’s twelve Psalms, including the ones we read today. Asaph often addresses himself to national concerns and the shortcomings of rulers. In his commentary, Spurgeon rejects the notion that “worship” must be divorced from criticizing political leaders or advocating for political causes.

“We have here a clear proof that all psalms and hymns need not be direct expressions of praise to God…the sweet singer was not forsaking his profession as a musician for the Lord, but rather was…praising God when he rebuked the sin which dishonored him, and if he was not making music, he was hushing discord when he bade rulers dispense justice with impartiality.”

The great preacher is particularly concerned with the way the government, specifically judges, should treat the poor.

“Judges shall be judged, and to justices, justice shall be meted out…Their harsh decisions…are made in the presence of him who…is the champion of the poor and needy…Look not to the interests of the wealthy whose hands proffer you bribes, but protect the rights of the needy…do not hunt down the peasant for gathering a few sticks, and allow the gentlemanly swindler to break through the meshes of the law.

Break the nets of the man-catchers…the bonds, the securities, with which cunning men capture and continue to hold in bondage the poor and the embarrassed. It is a brave thing when a judge can liberate a victim like a fly from the spider’s web, and a horrible case when magistrate and plunderer are in league. Law has too often been an instrument for vengeance in the hand of unscrupulous men, an instrument as deadly as poison or the dagger. It is for the judge to prevent such villainy.”

There is no topic outside the scope of scripture and each dominant party’s platform is anti-biblical in one area or the other. May our preachers, leaders, and singers boldly confront injustice no matter the rulers responsible.

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Gracious and upright is the Lord; therefore he teaches sinners in his way. — Psalm 25.7

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 2 (Listen – 5:06) 
Psalm 83-84 (Listen – 3:20)

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Read more about Celebrating Earthly Kingdoms
Patriotism based on national pride is an easy idol to fall victim to. So is anti-patriotism. This is true whether anti-patriotism is based on national cynicism or idolatry of party instead of nation. Christians must avoid all of these.

Read more about Who is Your King?
When God sets out to make things new, he eschews governments. He starts a family. He lifts up the outcast. He frees the slave. He gathers a community. The privilege of God’s people is not to be used, but to be loved, to love each other, and serve others with, and lead others to, that love.