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Repentance and Revival

“And all of Midian and the Amalekites and the Sons of the East gathered together. And they passed over and encamped in the Valley of Jezreel. But the Spirit of Yahweh covered Gideon and he blew the shophar and the Fathers of the Ezrites were called out to him. And messengers were sent to all of Manasseh and they were also called out to him. And messengers were sent through Asher and through Zebulon and through Naphtali and they went up to meet him.”

(Judges 6:33-35)

Prior to the call of Gideon, prior to the tearing down of the pagan altar and image, prior to the sacrifice offered by Gideon on the altar to God, prior to the establishment of right worship, when the Midianites rushed into the land, they met no resistance and everyone fled. Now we see a different picture emerging. And it emerges not because of the boldness of Gideon, but because the Holy Spirit has rushed upon Gideon and God is about to do a wonderful thing. Yet, it is a thing that God does not do so long as the people are committed to their idols. He does not do this lest the idol be given credit for the deliverance.

How we so often wonder, why God is not moving in our land. The answer is that it all stems back to worship. In America, it seems like most anything is considered acceptable as a form of worship to God. How often do we see chaos and unrestrained foolishness masquerading as worship in the assemblies of God’s people. How often even in more sober-minded forums, we see humanism sung from the songbooks and preached from the pulpits. And how often do we see ritualism replacing a commitment of the heart to Christ. And then we wonder, why do we not see God’s hand delivering us from our enemies.

Loved ones, there is an answer to our problem. But that answer begins with repentance — repenting of the humanistic foolishness that we have embraced and getting back to right worship — worship as is described in the scriptures. Worship that is governed by the Word of God not the inventions of men. Then, when we repent of our idolatry, then we may indeed see the hand of God bringing deliverance and revival once again.

Help Us Repent and Love You in Deed

“And so the nose of Yahweh burned toward Israel and he sold them into the hand of Cushan Rishathayim, king of Aram Naharayim. And the Sons of Israel served Cushan Rishathayim for eight years. The Sons of Israel cried out to Yahweh and Yahweh raised up a deliverer for Israel who delivered them — Othniel, the son of Qenaz, who was the younger brother of Caleb.”

(Judges 3:8-9)

We now move from matters that are introductory into the actual history of the people during the era of the judges. The first enemy comes from Mesopotamia (the interpretation of  MˆyårShÅn — Naharayim from the LXX), to the northeast. The people are oppressed by him for a period of eight years and then they cry out to the Lord and he raises up a deliverer (some translations — “a savior” — same word), who happens to be someone we have already met from the original conquest (see Judges 1:13): Othniel, Caleb’s brother.

This first cycle of sin will serve as a model or paradigm as to what a Judge should be and do and how the people are to respond. The reality is that the people will continue this cycle of sin and the Judges will not ever reach as high as did Othniel before them. This is the best it gets in what becomes a dark time.

What should strike us is the duration of time that God permitted the people to suffer for their sins before he raised up Othniel. To us, eight years must seem like an eternity. Yet, in an eternal perspective, particularly in comparison to the seriousness of the people’s sins, the permission that God gave to Cushan Rishathayim to oppress his people is comparatively short and extraordinarily gracious. Remember, it is Hell that we deserve…it is Hell that we always deserve, yet God shows himself eternally gracious.

What must not be missed regarding these cycles of sin and deliverance is that we (the church) have changed little. We cry out for a deliverer but are all too often unwilling to repent of that sin which placed us under God’s hand of judgment. We neither hate our sin nor view our sin as seriously as God views our sin. And what shall we say for ourselves? Perhaps we should plead to God, “help us to repent and love you in deed as well as word.”

The Pastor’s Heart

“But even if I am made a drink offering over the sacrifice and worship of your faith, I rejoice — also, I rejoice with all of you!”

(Philippians 2:17)

Here, in Paul, we find the heart of a true pastor. His heart is laid forth that even if his very life is poured out from his veins as a drink offering as a means by which the faith of the people is built up, Paul would gladly do so. Paul will use this language again in 2 Timothy 4:6 as he closes in on that time when the Romans will put him to death on account of the Gospel…this is a man who is quite prepared to die so that those under his care might have true life. As David gladly fought lions and bears (1 Samuel 17:34-36) to protect the sheep in his charge, so too, Paul gladly fights the forces of the enemy, the devil, to protect his charge, even if it means laying down his own life.

While, as pastors in the western world, we are rarely (if ever) confronted with a situation where we might have to put our lives on the line to preserve a member of our flock, we are often called upon to make other sacrifices for the wellbeing and care of the sheep that God has placed in our care. Yet, how often the “professional clergy” fail to do this. How often, pastors sacrifice the wellbeing of their congregation to advance their own ends or their own reputation in the community or world. How often do we see pastors using a church as a means to an end (whether bouncing from church to church in hopes of bigger churches with bigger salaries or by manipulating the sympathies of the people in the congregation to gain gifts or other benefits).

Beloved, those who seek to use their congregation as a platform to serve their own ends are not serving as pastors. Pastors who are not willing to be poured out even as a drink offering for the strengthening of the faith of the congregation do not have the heart of Paul. As I was told many years ago by another pastor and as I have told many times to others, the pastorate is not a job; it is a lifestyle. We do not punch a clock at the end of the day; we are not given the luxury of not coming in because it is our “day off,” and we are by no means ever amongst those who can leave their job “at work.” We live our calling day in and day out and if we are unwilling to do so, we are unfit for the call.

Does that mean that pastors should resign their pastorate because they have lived poorly in this way? There are many who should. What it means is that, in understanding this great truth, we should repent. And all of us have room to repent daily for none of us fully lives up to the model set before us by Paul…and if not Paul, how far we are from the model Christ set before us. And, if you are not called to be a pastor, but the pastor that God has placed over you is not being faithful in this, do not set out with pitchforks and torches, but approach him in love and grace and encourage him in love to fulfill his calling. Sometimes, in the warp and woof of life, it is easy to be distracted from one’s first love by the busyness that can so consume our days. We all fall woefully short; praise God that there is forgiveness found in Christ.

Hope or Despair; Life or Death

“Then, when Judas, his betrayer, saw that he was condemned, he had second thoughts and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders saying, ‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.’ But they said, ‘What is that to us? Look to yourself.’”

(Matthew 27:3-4)

 

In the flow of things, this is a little out of order (at least with Matthew’s chronology). The main thing to remember, in this case, is that this event is essentially taking place at the same time as some of the mob demands before Pilate — behind the scenes. Moving it down into this position in the harmonized account, allows for the full story around Pilate to be told and then the comments around Judas’ betrayal.

A contrast takes place here, though, that is very important to note. Here, Judas is called, “the betrayer,” a name that will stick with Judas through the rest of history. The term that is used is paradi/dwmi (paradidomi), which literally means “one who delivers.” In this case, context has clarified how the delivery takes place, for Judas has delivered Jesus into the hands of the wicked. The contrast that takes place, though, is that you have two deliverers at work in this passage — Judas the betrayer, the one who delivers Jesus into the hands of the wicked, and Jesus the deliverer of the elect of God. One a worker of unrighteousness the other the Lord of all righteousness. Indeed, what a sad contrast this is.

We are told that Judas had second thoughts. The term used here is metame/lomai (metamelomai) and it conveys the sense of being sorry for an action, regretting one’s decision, and wishing that it could be undone. We should not see this as repentance, though. Typically the word translated as “repent” is metanoe/w (metanoeo), and refers to a total change in one’s worldview or perspective. Judas felt bad because he realized his betrayal was that of condemning an innocent man to death, but his hard heart did not change (to be evidenced by his suicide to follow). Nevertheless, there is honest grief that is exhibited here.

Judas seeks to undo his actions rather than asking Christ for forgiveness, thinking that if he returns the blood money he won’t be as culpable. Again, this is a sign of a heart that is not regenerate, simply regrets his actions and fears his future condemnation. The priests are unable to accept blood money, but we are getting ahead of ourselves. Notice, though, their response to Judas. “It’s your problem, not ours” is essentially what they tell him. They have what they want and nothing can undo the events that will soon transpire.

The final phrase is translated in a variety of ways, often implying that Judas is responsible for fixing his own mess — “don’t involve us” is implied. I would suggest that is partially true, but misses the force of this statement. They say, “look to yourself” or even “look on yourself” (the verb there is a “middle” form, implying an action that one is doing upon or to oneself). Here’s the thing. Judas is sorry for his actions and is going to the priests. It was the priests whose role was to be the intercessor between God and man for sins. They are basically saying to him that there is nothing they can do, he needs to make atonement by his own works — they demonstrate their own impotence as priests do do what they have been called to do. Judas will not run to Christ, he recognizes he stands condemned, what will be left to do but to take his own life — indeed he will look to himself.

Oh, beloved, the despair that comes from looking upon oneself for your own deliverance. It simply cannot be done. No matter how high and lofty the Christ-less ideals of the unbeliever may sound to our ears, they cannot hope to live them out and will end up in despair…like Judas. There is hope in one name for in only one name is there forgiveness for sins and a promise of deliverance from this body of death. And that name is the name of Jesus Christ! Run to him! Cling to him! And call the world to do the same! For in Him and in Him alone there is life and hope and peace and joy! Oh the sorrows we inflict upon ourselves when we seek to take matters into our own hands; what life there is in the hands of Christ. Choose this day, loved ones, whom you will serve — and do it! Live out your faith in everything you say and do, growing in faith and grace yourself and pointing others to the only hope for this life and for the next. Amen.

That’s What You Said…

“Jesus said to him, ‘That’s what you say. Nevertheless, I tell you from now on you will witness the Son of Man seated at the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of heaven.’”

(Matthew 26:64)

 

“But Jesus said, ‘I am. and you will see the Son of Man seated on the right hand of power and coming with the clouds from heaven.’”

(Mark 14:62)

 

“‘From now on, the Son of Man will be seated on the right hand of the Power of God.’ So, they all said to him, ‘Are you therefore the Son of God?’ So he said to them, ‘You say that I am.’”

(Luke 22:69-70)

 

On a surface level there would seem to be a bit of a discrepancy between Mark’s account of Jesus’ statements and the account recorded by Matthew and Luke. Of course, they all record the questioning of Caiaphas that leads up to this point, asking Jesus if he is the Christ. Yet, in the record of Jesus’ response there is some variation. Mark records Jesus as plainly affirming the question by stating, ejgo/ eijmi — “I am.” Matthew and Luke, on the other hand, record Jesus saying, “That’s what you say” and “You say that I am” respectively.

So, what shall we make of this? We know in approaching the text that this is the Inspired word of God, so we cannot dismiss the potential discrepancy as an error in the record, but must ask the question as to how these two presentations fit together. The simple harmony would be to see Jesus making both statements and each Gospel writer presenting what they considered to be the most significant portion of what Jesus said, but the question that follows would be as to why. In addition, based on the statements of Jesus to follow that he is not hiding his divine claim, so the suggestion that Jesus’ statement, “That’s what you say,” is meant to hide his identity is unfounded, thus we must look deeper.

Imagine the conversation (based on the three accounts) sounding something like this:

Caiaphas: “Are you the Christ?”

Jesus: “That’s what you said and I am. And from this time on, you will see me…”

Caiaphas: “Then are you the Son of God?”

Jesus: “You already said that I am.”

The reality is that by Caiaphas’ extreme action, arrest, trial, and planned execution of Jesus, he is betraying that he understands that Jesus is the promised Messiah and he wants nothing of him because a Messiah would bring change to his power, wealth, and authority as High Priest. Thus, he is condemning himself by his own actions. Think about it, conspiracy theories abound in our culture today and they often make quite entertaining fiction. Yet, in most cases, the entities about which the conspiracy theories revolve typically don’t make much of a fuss over the matter. But when a fuss is made and a cover-up attempted, it is typically a clue that there is perhaps something to such a theory. Here is one more illustration of that principle. If Caiaphas thought Jesus a ridiculous impostor, he would largely have ignored him and discredited him based on Biblical prophesies about the Messiah. Such a thing never happened; instead, Caiaphas sought to cover up the truth by putting Jesus to death. Something is to be said for Caiaphas’ acknowledgment and rejection — and Jesus does so by speaking judgment, but we get ahead of ourselves.

While it is easy to judge Caiaphas for his wickedness, as Christians we also ought to take into account the way we speak and act as well as the times we reject Jesus by our words and actions. How often, when given the opportunity to take a stand for the Truth of God’s word, we back down. How often we simply speak or act in a way that dishonors God. How often we too need to be reminded that in judgment we will see Jesus sitting at the right hand of power as judge and will be held accountable for our actions and words. The good news is that in repentance there is forgiveness, but do not forget, beloved, that repentance means we turn away from our sins and seek Christ and his righteousness. May we indeed do just that.

Am I Missing Something?

Normally I try and stay out of the fray when it comes to the frenzy around popular scandals and sensationalistic stories. Maybe I should make more social commentaries than I do, but guess that I would rather immerse myself more deeply in God’s word and trust people to have a little common sense that can be applied to a situation strange or otherwise. Yet there has been an odd buzzing around evangelical circles and I am feeling compelled to at least comment in the hopes that this buzz will go along the wayside sooner than later.

It seems that recently, Atlanta pastor, Louie Giglio was first invited and then disinvited to offer the benediction at the second inauguration of President Barak Obama. It is said that the invitation came as a result of Giglio’s work to raise awareness about sex trafficking in the United States. The disinvitation came as a result of a twenty-year-old sermon where Giglio presented the Biblical testimony that homosexuality is sin. And now, it seems that every major figure in evangelical Christianity along with major figures in the liberal establishment are offering us commentaries — folks, enough already! Yet, let me ignore my own advice and make a couple of comments:

 

1) Why in the world would the Obama Administration invite an evangelical evangelist to offer the benediction? And why, oh why, did Giglio accept said request? Think about it. Perhaps it would be flattering to be asked to offer such a benediction, but there comes a point when one ought to decline.

Though I have never been asked to offer a prayer at such an auspicious occasion (and don’t expect to be), as an area pastor I do regularly get asked to pray or offer a benediction at community events. In these cases, the first question that I ask is always, “Am I allowed to pray in the name of Jesus Christ?” If the answer is, ‘no,’ then my answer is ‘no’ as well. Inclusivity in presidential politics is no new thing to the scene and clearly guidelines and rules would be established for such a benediction that would water down the intentional Christian spirit of the prayer.

One might counter that this is a pluralistic nation in terms of religious beliefs, and indeed it is, but I am not a pluralistic pastor — I am a Christian pastor, and so is Louie Giglio — and thus my loyalties lie with Christ and any authority I have to offer a blessing upon the lives of others also comes from Christ.

Furthermore, when one shares the stage in a setting like an inauguration with someone, that offers an implicit endorsement of the person with whom the stage is shared. Why go down that road? How can an evangelical endorse any politician that supports the gay agenda, the pro-choice agenda, and the agenda of those who are seeking to marginalize the Christian voice from civil life (in our schools, our courts, etc…)? What fellowship does light have with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14)

 

2) While my intention is not to slam Pastor Giglio here, it seems odd to me that those pursuing a liberal agenda would have to go 20 years back to find something “incriminating” against him in his sermons. Surely, I would hope, that nearly any evangelical pastor would regularly be speaking in a way that those who pursue sin would find offensive. My grandfather (a Methodist minister) used to say, “if you are not stepping on toes, you are likely not preaching the gospel.”

As preachers, part of our responsibility is to address the sins of our time in a way that reflects God’s word and not the fickle preferences of men. We are to call the culture away from its self-destruction and not chase the culture to the praise of men. We should be calling people to repent of their sins — homosexuality being just one of such wicked lifestyles our world has embraced. We should also be calling people to repent of sexual immorality of all kids, including sexuality outside of wedlock. We should be calling people to repent of pornography, slander, gossip, unforgiveness, anger, pride, adultery, and the list goes on! We should be proclaiming the truth that we are fallen sinners and that there is forgiveness in Christ Jesus alone — there is no other way to the Father but through the Son. Surely that too must be greatly offensive in our politically correct society!

This does not mean we are wagging our fingers at the world, for we point toward our own fallenness as well, and we proclaim that in Christ there is grace and forgiveness — yet Christ himself also calls us to turn away from our wicked lifestyles, not to become comfortable in them or accepting of them. “Go and sin no more” are words from Christ that echo down through the centuries.

When the issue of homosexuality was raised with Giglio, rather than to use that opportunity to speak truth into the culture, he soft-pedaled the matter and stated that the question of homosexuality had not been in his “range of priorities in the past fifteen years.” Really? Surely homosexuality is one of the most significant issues eroding the morality of our society over the past fifteen years…am I missing something? Especially given that much of Giglio’s public ministry has been focused on calling kids to “making much of Christ,” does one not think that one’s lifestyle is part of that? Were one to have a ministry that focused primarily on our older generation (let’s say 65 and up…sorry Mom and Dad!), then it would be easy to see how this social issue would not play a role in the forefront of his ministry because that generation in our culture was largely raised on Biblical moral teachings. The younger generation was not and has been encouraged to experiment with sin. One ought to keep that in as much of the forefront as sex trafficking, the use of drugs, and other self-destructive behaviors. Giglio clearly is committed to the Biblical truth on the matter, given the language of his released sermon, but why has he played down the question when raised?

 

3) It is true, as people like Al Mohler point out, that Biblical foundations are being eroded from our culture and that society is actively seeking to marginalize the influence and presence of evangelicalism from public life. That said, why do we assume (as evangelical Christians) that having an evangelical pastor pray for our president (one who rejects what evangelicals stand for) will change the current state of affairs? Don’t get me wrong, we are to pray for all of our leaders — in this case, I would argue for conversion — but the public prayer at an inauguration does not seem to be the kind of thing that Paul was speaking about when he wrote those words to Timothy.

And why should it bother us if our president would choose a liberal pastor, a unitarian pastor, or even a Muslim Imam to pray for him at his Inauguration? Why not find someone to speak words that will be meaningful to the man being Inaugurated?

Yes, as Christians we may not like the idea of our Christian presence being lost in the Presidential Inauguration, but is it really there just because a Christian offers a prayer and the President swears on a book he cares nothing for? It is said that of Evangelical Christians in America, only about 20% eligible to vote did, so why bother getting upset now? And why bother getting upset at anyone but ourselves. If we have chosen (as evangelicals) to refuse to be salt and light, then it is we who need to repent for our bashfulness. We have bought into the idea that if we put up the pretense that we are a Christian culture we will be…sadly, the Bible calls that hypocrisy. We are a nation grounded in Christian roots, but we have strayed far from the spot where we began. We need a political revival like the spiritual revival that took place in Josiah’s day, calling people in our nation back to the foundation upon which we began — the foundation that God blessed and made our nation the great beacon of freedom and liberty that is — though as we stray further and further from that foundation, we will lose more and more of that freedom and liberty that made our nation great.

 

The bottom line is that these kinds of things (disinvitations and the like) are not the problems; they are only symptoms of the problem. We, like ancient Israel, have fallen into a time where every man does what is right in his own eyes — and we are paying the price for that sin. No, I don’t think I am missing something.

 

Ego Deficiam

“I will fail them.” The early church fathers reflected on the relationships between pastors, the world, satan, and the church flock and developed a series of statements that described each relationship. The first of these statements was that of the pastor with regard to his people: Ego Deficiam (I will fail).

At first, our response might be to think that this is a rather pessimistic view of the relationship between shepherd and flock. How is it that a pastor could go into his role with the assumption that he will fail his people? As churches, do we want to hire a pastor who says up front, “Oh, by the way, I will fail you.” It is food for thought.

There are two aspects of this statement, that we must understand. The first is the “I.” I will fail you. I will fail as your pastor, as your counselor, and as your friend. I will fail as a husband and as a father. I will fail as an employee and as a representative of the church in the community. I will fail. Yet, this is not a pessimistic view, but a realistic view (as well as a Biblical one). For while I will fail you; Christ will not do so. Christ will gloriously succeed not because of my efforts, but in spite of my best efforts. And when I serve not in my own strength, but in the strength of Christ, then glorious things will happen—not for my praise, but for God’s.

This is the reason that a pastor (all Christians really) must be a man of prayer. And not just a prayer in the morning or evening, but a pastor must be a man of constant prayer through the day. One of the reasons that I like Nehemiah is because he exemplifies this. Not only are there formal and structured prayers recorded coming off of his lips, but also he lifts up short little “bullet prayers” throughout the day as he is making decisions. Those of you who know me or who have sat under me teaching on Nehemiah know that I am not overly fond of his model as a manager of people (even though lots of books present him that way); read Nehemiah 13:23-27 and ask yourself if you want a governor or office manager who leads in this fashion☺. I do believe, though, he provides us with a good example of perpetual prayer, seeking God’s wisdom and strength.

The second aspect that we must understand is that the fact that someone fails is not nearly as important as what someone does as a result of that failure. The true humility of a man will always present itself in failures, not in successes. If a person covers up their failures or seeks to shift blame to others, then the person’s character is such that you ought not have him as shepherd. If he is humble, repentant, and takes responsibility for his actions, then that is a man you want to lead you. The Gospel is the good news of God reconciling us poor and spiritually bankrupt sinners to himself; we are all in the same boat together within the church—wretches who have been redeemed by grace. Why should we expect our pastor of not being a sinner and thus a failure in God’s economy?

Sadly, we often create a standard that a pastor cannot hope to live up to and then make him feel like he has to hide his sin to keep up appearances. Yet, if the pastor is living hypocritically, why are we surprised when the members of our congregations live hypocritically? Our goal must be very different. We must endeavor to create a culture of honesty and transparency within our church community that is seasoned with abundant grace. Then, when one fails, the community comes together to work toward grace-filled reconciliation. It must be said, that there are some failures that must, by their very nature, remove a man from the office of shepherd, but not that ought to remove him from the church.

In discussions and counseling sessions with members of my congregation, one of the things that I have said over and over is: “We are going to make mistakes; we are going to mess things up.” The fact is, we are fallen and sinful and despite the grace we have been shown by Christ, we will not always show the grace we ought to show. At the same time, what I have told people is that when we mess up, if you let us know, we will fix it.

Indeed, I will fail you. But in Christ, I will repent and strive to make it right.

No Pleasure in Sacrifice: Psalm 51 (Part 17)

“For you do not take pleasure in sacrifice—I would give it—

with whole burnt offerings you will not accept with pleasure.”

(Psalm 51:18 {Psalm 51:16 in English Bibles})

 

Passages like this one have often caused people to stumble because of the many sacrifices that God required of the people in the ancient times—sacrifices that are given to be a “pleasing” aroma before God.  Yet, here and in passages like Isaiah 1:11-17, God demonstrates his distaste for such offerings—how are we to make sense of these seemingly contradictory teachings?

To understand this, we must first ask the question as to why there was sacrifice made in the Old Testament times, and the answer brings us around to sin.  As we have mentioned above, where there is no shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins (Hebrews 9:22).  Thus, as you looked at the ancient sacrificial system, it becomes more and more clear that this system was not meant to stand alone and deal with sins, but was meant to accompany a heart moved by faith to repentance.  What good was the slaughter of a thousand rams if repentance does not accompany the sacrifice!?!  As David will write in the following verse, it is a broken and a contrite heart that is the acceptable sacrifice before the Lord.

In David’s time—and in our own time as well—there are many people that think that a certain act can save them without a God-given change of heart.  In Roman Catholic theology, oftentimes people fall into the trap of saying, “If I just sponsor enough masses” or “if I just say enough ‘Hail Mary’s,” then I will be alright with God.  In protestant circles, we tend to do the same thing, although we package it differently.  Many say, “If I just say the sinner’s prayer just so” or “if I just go down to an altar call at the proper time,” then I will be alright with God. 

Beloved, true repentance requires a change of your heart, and that change can only come as a result of God changing your heart.  It is not about what you do or when you do what you do, but it is all about what God does in you.  Why does David say that the only sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken and contrite heart?  He says such because without a broken and a contrite heart to begin with, sacrifices will serve you no value.

So back to the issue of sacrifices; there is one more aspect that we need to address, and that is the issue of sacrifices as symbols or pointers to the coming sacrifice of Christ.  The temple sacrifices were imperfect in that they were performed by sinful humans and they were but a shadow of the perfect sacrifice that would come in Jesus Christ.  Yet, at the same time, all the blood that flowed on the ancient altars was meant to make us come to terms with the weight and costliness of sins.  Those ancient sacrifices had to be performed over and over; when the perfect sacrifice came in the person of Jesus Christ, it was performed once and for all time with no need of a repetition.

And herein lies our answer—God took pleasure in the sacrifice when it was offered by one who was offering it up in faith and genuine repentance.  At the same time, many people confuse the symbol with the reality.  The bloody sacrifices were symbolic both of the rent heart of the individual and of the greater sacrifice of Christ—in and of themselves, they had no value.  Many people felt that just as long as they offered the right sacrifice, they would be redeemed—it is these sacrifices that God detests—sacrifices offered as ritual and not in faith and repentance.

Loved ones, this applies directly to us today.  Though we are not making altar sacrifices any more, we are claiming to trust in the perfect sacrifice of Christ.  Yet, if this trust is not accompanied by faith and a heart broken by sin, it will avail nothing.  True repentance accompanies true faith, and without true faith, there is no salvation.  Beloved, take this to heart, and come to our Lord in faith, offering to Christ a heart that has been made supple by the work of the Holy Spirit.

O Joy that seekest me through pain,

I cannot close my heart to thee;

I trace the rainbow through the rain,

And feel the promise is not vain

That morn shall tearless be.

-George Matheson

Let Me Hear Jubilation and Joy: Psalm 51 (part 9)

“Let me hear jubilation and joy,

Let the bones that you have crushed rejoice!”

(Psalm 51:10 {Psalm 51:8 in English Bibles})

 

Just as forgiveness can only come from the Lord, so too does restoration.  True joy cannot be had apart from God, because true joy is something that can only be experienced in relationship with God.  We may chase after many things that bring us pleasure, but it is only God who can bring us lasting joy, and oh, how our sin deprives us of such joy.  Sin is that which drives a wedge in the relationship we have with God, yet oh, how glorious our God is, in restoring that joy as he forgives our sins.

Also, beloved, do not miss what David is showing us in this verse—it is the bones that “you (speaking of God) have crushed.”  So often when we think of the horrid things that happen to us, we immediately blame the devil and his mischief, and there is no question that the devil is at work in this world.  Yet, never forget that our God is sovereign even over the devil and his actions and our God often uses the machinations of the devil to bring about his good pleasure.  It is God who brings about all things, both great and small, good and ill (Isaiah 45:7) either though his direct action or through his permissive will, and it is God who breaks us when we persist in sin, to bring us back to himself.  Yet, even the bones that have been broken and crushed may be restored to rejoicing in repentance.

Beloved, sometimes we get so lost in the rule and instruction of scripture that sometimes we can miss the incredible joy that can be found in Jesus Christ.  Yet, note that joy in Christ can only be had if it is done in submission to Jesus’ lordship.  Loved ones, seek to repent for the sins of your life, but in that repentance, pray that God would restore to you the joy that comes from a close relationship with him.  The closer you walk to your beloved, the easier it is to stroll hand in hand.