The Consequence of Carelessness

Scripture Focus: Joshua 9:14
14 The Israelites sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the Lord.

Psalm 140:1-3
1 Rescue me, Lord, from evildoers;
    protect me from the violent,
2 who devise evil plans in their hearts
    and stir up war every day.
3 They make their tongues as sharp as a serpent’s;
    the poison of vipers is on their lips.

Student Writers Month:
This month, The Park Forum welcomes college and seminary student writers pursuing ministry careers. For more info about our yearly Student Writer program, see our website.

Reflection: The Consequence of Carelessness
By Erin Newton

There are times when the monotony of life creates an apathy toward caution. Each day is much like the last; one activity looks the same as the next. We grow comfortable in our abilities and go about our day with no need of counsel.

Joshua led the Israelite army against city after city. The mistake of Achan’s sin seemed to have been reversed with the defeat of Ai. However, the pattern of error had already taken root. Some of their enemies formed an alliance, but the Gibeonites chose an alternate method: lie and gain Israel’s protection through deception. With much planning, the ruse was set. The Israelite leaders took a cursory glance and trusted the Gibeonites’ claim. Regrettably, they did not seek God’s counsel. They were blind to the false pretense and propaganda before them. This lapse in judgment bound the Israelites with their enemy. Hastiness produced errors.

Psalm 140 presents a plea for protection, asking God for wisdom to discern evil plans and cunning words. The psalmist likens the words of an enemy to the poisonous, sharp tongue of a viper. The craftiness of the serpent in the Garden strikes again in the Promised Land through the Gibeonites.

Why did the leaders fail to inquire of God? Why do we? Is it apathy, busyness, or pride? Our lives are plagued with rash decisions because we operate at high speed. We are convinced of our abilities and fail to lay our lives before God. Are we neglecting God’s counsel because we do not want to deny ourselves certain things?

C. S. Lewis describes the gentle slope toward evil through his fictional story of demonic correspondence in The Screwtape Letters: It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards do the trick.

Israel’s tendency toward neglect would be a festering wound resulting in more errors and consequences. If we do not open every corner of our lives to God, we will likely slip unknowingly into a pact with the enemy. We will be duped by anyone with persuasive words. We must remember to seek God’s counsel and see through deception. 

Joshua honored the covenant Israel made in error. Ultimately, the Gibeonites remained part of the Israelite community for centuries. Even though humanity errs, God redeems. 

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Let those who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; let those who love your salvation say forever, “Great is the Lord!” — Psalm 70.4

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Joshua 9 (Listen – 3:46)
Psalm 140-141 (Listen – 2:44)

Read More about Readers’ Choice 2021
It is time to hear from you about the posts from the past eleven months (September 2020 – July 2021) that have challenged, comforted, and helped you find new meaning in the scriptures.

Read more about The Idol of Control
True peace comes from trusting in the wisdom, plan, and counsel of God…we must ensure that we listen first and foremost to God’s wisdom.

The Garden of Psalm 119

Scripture Focus: Psalm 119.169-176
169 May my cry come before you, Lord; 
give me understanding according to your word. 
170 May my supplication come before you; 
deliver me according to your promise. 
171 May my lips overflow with praise, 
for you teach me your decrees. 
172 May my tongue sing of your word, 
for all your commands are righteous. 
173 May your hand be ready to help me, 
for I have chosen your precepts. 
174 I long for your salvation, Lord, 
and your law gives me delight. 
175 Let me live that I may praise you, 
and may your laws sustain me. 
176 I have strayed like a lost sheep. 
Seek your servant, 
for I have not forgotten your commands. 

From John: As we wrap up Psalm 119 this week, we look back again at our reflection on Charles Spurgeon’s words about the great psalm. We are also eagerly anticipating the beginning of Student Writers Month in July followed by your Readers’ Choice selections in August. To submit your selections for Readers’ Choice, follow this link.

Reflection: The Garden of Psalm 119
By John Tillman

We finish Psalm 119 today and reflect on it with some words from Charles Spurgeon: 

“Those who have studied this divine hymn, and carefully noted each line of it, are amazed at the variety and profundity of the thought…The more you look into this mirror of a gracious heart the more you will see in it.”

Spurgeon is convinced that David wrote the Psalm and if not he, then some other writer who spent long years in its work and created it not over a short span, but through a lifetime of faithfulness.

“There is evident growth in the subject matter. The earlier verses are of such a character as to lend themselves to the hypothesis that the author was a young man, while many of the later passages could only have suggested themselves to age and wisdom.”

In the end, rather than rising in acclaim or celebration, the aged wisdom of the psalmist leads him to a humble and prostrate stance.

“The psalmist is approaching the end of the Psalm…he seems to break into the inner circle of divine fellowship, and to come even to the feet of the great God whose help he is imploring. This nearness creates the most lowly view of himself, and leads him to close the Psalm upon his face in deepest self-humiliation, begging to be sought out like a lost sheep…It is a very sweet thing to a suppliant when he knows of a surety that his prayer has obtained audience. It is to Jehovah that this prayer is expressed with trembling earnestness…we crave audience of none else, for we have confidence in none beside.”

Meditating on Psalm 119 daily has been a common spiritual practice for centuries with many reporting a wealth of spiritual benefit.

“This sacred ode is a little Bible, the Scriptures condensed, a mass of Bibline, holy writ rewritten in holy emotions and actions. This Psalm, like the whole Scripture which it praises, is a pearl island, or, better still, a garden of sweet flowers.”

It is our hope that each cycle of our two-year-long tread through the garden of scripture produces not pride, but humility. Not judgmental attitudes, but merciful gratitude. Not clamoring commands for others, but tender notes of correction in our own hearts.

*Quotations abridged from A Treasury of David, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Hallelujah! Give praise, you servants of the Lord; praise the Name of the Lord. — Psalm 113.1

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 33-34 (Listen – 4:43)
Psalm 119:145-176 (Listen – 15:14)

Read more about Readers’ Choice 2021
It is time for us to hear from you about the posts from the past eleven months (September 2020 through July 2021) that have challenged and comforted you and helped you find new meaning in the scriptures.

Read more about Setting Aside the Scriptures
Considering all of Scripture together without breaking it apart requires patience and a deep familiarity with Scripture.

The Stretching Arm of Salvation — A Guided Prayer

Scripture Focus: Deuteronomy 30.11-14
11 Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. 12 It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 13 Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 14 No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.

Psalm 119.81
81 My soul faints with longing for your salvation, 
but I have put my hope in your word. 

Reflection: The Stretching Arm of Salvation — A Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

The gospel is not a lifehack. Salvation is not a touch-up job on a fender bender. Sanctification is not akin to the marginal improvements available by the effort of will and self-determination. Jesus is not a self-help guru.

Self-help righteousness has been tried. It failed. Despite the fact that Moses tells the people that it, “is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach,” the rest of Israel’s history proved otherwise. Israel lived by sight yet could not avoid idolatry and judgment. We live by faith and our failures, in many ways, are more spectacularly evil than theirs. 

We cannot reach salvation. Salvation reaches for us—and His arm is not too short.

We pray, today, along with a section of Psalm 119, a prayer for those in need of salvation. It is a prayer for those suffering oppression, injustice, and persecution. We pray on behalf of those inside or outside our borders who suffer the sting of unjust treatment and the careless disregard of the powerful. May God move on their behalf and may he do it through us. 

For Salvation
My soul faints with longing for your salvation,
    but I have put my hope in your word.

Extend to us the stretching arm of salvation, promised in your holy word and fulfilled in The Word who became flesh for us.

My eyes fail, looking for your promise;
    I say, “When will you comfort me?”

We seek not the comforts of this world but those of the next, “on earth as it is in heaven.

Though I am like a wineskin in the smoke,
    I do not forget your decrees.

May suffering burn up our pride and vanity and fill us with your Word.

How long must your servant wait?
    When will you punish my persecutors?
The arrogant dig pits to trap me,
    contrary to your law.

Your law is abused, Lord. 
Twisted to harm rather than protect.
Used to excuse abuse rather than to empower love and mercy.

All your commands are trustworthy;
    help me, for I am being persecuted without cause.
They almost wiped me from the earth,
    but I have not forsaken your precepts.
In your unfailing love preserve my life,
    that I may obey the statutes of your mouth.

We can obey your commands with joy, for they are good.
Your love will not fail us.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things.
With his right hand and his holy arm has he won for himself the victory. — Psalm 98.1-2

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 30 (Listen – 3:12)
Psalm 119:73:96 (Listen – 15:14)

This Weekend’s Readings
Deuteronomy 31 (Listen – 4:57), Psalm 119:97-120 (Listen – 15:14)
Deuteronomy 32 (Listen – 7:10), Psalm 119:121-144 (Listen – 15:14)

Read more about Ways of Canaan, Ways of Christ
Seek God’s face and ask him to reveal and remove “ways of Canaan” within you, replacing them with the ways of Christ.

Read more about The Antivenom for Sin
We cannot save ourselves from the venom of sin. It inevitably will cause our death and many other harms in our lives.

Make God’s Love Evident

Scripture Focus: Psalm 119.50-53, 61-64
50 My comfort in my suffering is this: 
Your promise preserves my life. 
51 The arrogant mock me unmercifully, 
but I do not turn from your law. 
52 I remember, Lord, your ancient laws, 
and I find comfort in them. 
53 Indignation grips me because of the wicked, 
who have forsaken your law. 

61 Though the wicked bind me with ropes, 
I will not forget your law. 
62 At midnight I rise to give you thanks 
for your righteous laws. 
63 I am a friend to all who fear you, 
to all who follow your precepts. 
64 The earth is filled with your love, Lord; 
teach me your decrees. 

Reflection: Make God’s Love Evident
By John Tillman

There is great wickedness in the world. Yet, in such a world, the psalmist proclaims God’s love, the power of God’s laws, and the strength of his desire to know God more deeply.

Even in a world in which a person may be bound with ropes, or separated from their family, or denied justice, or put into a cage, or killed for the convenience of others, or hung from a tree, or gunned down in a church… Even in such a world, the psalmist tells us, “God’s love is evident.”

Wickedness is evident but God’s love is also evident.

God’s love is evident in the many Christian and secular organizations that move, at times into dangerous circumstances, to help the downtrodden, the poor, and those purposely excluded from justice. Our God sends help to the helpless, no matter the owner of the goods, the ship, the truck, or the organization.

God’s love is evident in his promises to bring disaster upon nations that ignore their responsibilities to the poor and to the foreigner. An endlessly repeating biblical theme, especially in the Old Testament, is that God’s people are to be kind and compassionate to foreigners and the marginalized. Our God humbles nations addicted to greed—including His own

God’s love is evident in God’s help and justice, but also in his presence. Our God is with those who suffer.

Only the suffering God can help. — Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Our God lies on concrete floors under aluminum blankets with abandoned children and ethnic minorities. He bleeds on the floor of a sanctuary with victimized worshipers. His body bears the wounds and scars of unjust captivity that are familiar to those brutalized by government forces.

God’s love is, of course, most fully evident in the gospel. However, passively chattering about “the gospel” in the face of evil, with no action, makes us smiling signposts on the road to Hell rather than under-shepherds of Christ, pulling sheep from the mouths of wolves.

The gospel is Christ’s frontal assault on wickedness. He storms Hell to set free its captives. We are Christ’s body in this world to carry out his righteousness. 

Make God’s love evident. Reach out in God’s love in any way that is available to you, whether through financial means or political. Even giving a cup of water in the name of Christ to the least of these will be remembered.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Morning Psalm
But let the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; let them be merry and joyful.
Sing to God, sing praises to his Name; exalt him who rides upon the heavens; Yahweh is his Name, rejoice before him!
Father of orphans, defender of widows, God in his holy habitation! — Psalm 68.3-5

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 29 (Listen – 4:14)
Psalm 119:49-72 (Listen – 15:14)

Read more about Spiritual Indicators
God holds his people responsible for the welfare of the poor, the foreigners, the widows, and the orphans.

Read more about The Sojourn of Sanctification
Those who had been exploited as foreigners were commanded to become a nation that blessed foreigners.

He Stoops to Raise

Scripture Focus: Psalm 113
1 Praise the Lord. n 
Praise the Lord, you his servants; 
praise the name of the Lord. 
2 Let the name of the Lord be praised, 
both now and forevermore. 
3 From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, 
the name of the Lord is to be praised. 
4 The Lord is exalted over all the nations, 
his glory above the heavens. 
5 Who is like the Lord our God, 
the One who sits enthroned on high, 
6 who stoops down to look 
on the heavens and the earth? 
7 He raises the poor from the dust 
and lifts the needy from the ash heap; 
8 he seats them with princes, 
with the princes of his people. 
9 He settles the childless woman in her home 
as a happy mother of children. 
Praise the Lord. 

Reflection: He Stoops to Raise
By John Tillman

The psalmist sees God exalted over the heavens, over the glorious phenomena of visible space. We learn of his vast, majestic glory in this way, through telescopes. But the psalmist also sees God stoop…

To understand God fully, we need a microscope, not just a telescope. The equally interesting, intimate glory of God is how infinitely small he is willing to shrink in order to meet us, save us, and lift us up.

This poem from two years ago explores Christ’s life as a process of descending and ascending. In every aspect of his life, and death, he intentionally moves from the highest place, to the lowest place. And why does he do this? So that, gripping our hands, he may ascend, raising us from dusty ash heaps to a glorious place, prepared for us.

He Stoops to Raise
He strips himself.
He lays aside
His Heaven
His throne
His clothes
His life

He lowers himself
Steps down, descends
He stoops
He kneels
Head bowed
He bends

He sinks, He digs
He slides, prostrates
Our sin
Hell’s gates

And then he lifts
His eyes, His face
To rise
To claim
His place

With him we rise
Gripped in His hand
The lost
The dead
No more
The damned

No more to die
Held by His side
We rise

Then he returns
All things in place

He then ascends
His throne above
The lamb
Our king
Our judge

Divine Hours Prayer: The Cry of the Church
O God, come to my assistance! O Lord, make haste to help me!

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 23 (Listen – 3:10)
Psalm 112-113 (Listen – 1:49)

This Weekend’s Readings
Deuteronomy 24 (Listen – 3:21), Psalm 114-115 (Listen – 2:18)
Deuteronomy 25 (Listen – 2:38), Psalm 116 (Listen – 1:34)

Read more about The Gospel is an Uprising
The Anastasis can be understood as “already and not yet.” It is both completed in the past, coming in the future, and happening now, in our midst.

Read more about Greater Footstool, Greater God, Greater Redeemer
Christ, who is higher and greater than anyone has imagined, would become less and lower than anyone would imagine, to do for us what no one could imagine.

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