Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Comfort in the Face of Wickedness - The Heart of the Wicked

We are aware that evil pervades our world. Wicked people speak evil. But where does this tendency towards evil come from? It is rooted in the fact that people who are apart from God have no righteousness of their own. It springs from the very fact that the heart of the wicked is set on a path away from God.

The wicked person is characterized by pride.

This pride denotes a “swelling” done by the wicked person. In Psalm 46:3 the same word is used to describe a river swelling in flood time. This is the picture the psalmist is trying to paint. Just as a river swells with the flood waters to the point that it overflows, so also the wicked person swells up with pride beyond that which he has any reason to do.

The wicked person does not have God in his thoughts.

The word “thoughts” denotes the intents of the heart. No one else knows exactly what these “thoughts” are; only the wicked knows what he is thinking. Although hidden deeply within the wicked person, God knows these intents and He also knows that He is not included in them.

The wicked person has a false sense of security.

Even though the wicked thinks that he is secure in his position, yet he is wrong in his understanding. The day will come when he will find out that he was wrong in his perception and he will understand that God has not forgotten what he has done. In this false sense of security, the wicked carries on with his actions. However, one day he will answer for all he has done.
Everyone will eventually answer for his actions. It will not be immediately, but as Galatians 6:7 states, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.”

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Comfort in the Face of Wickedness - The Wicked Speak Evil

Not only is evil pervasive, but the words of the wicked person are characterized by evil.

The wicked boasts concerning his heart’s desires.

The wicked is characterized by glorying in his desires. In contrast, the righteous person, should have the opposite character in his life. In other words, God should be the object of the righteous person’s glorying.

The wicked blesses the greedy.

The wicked person blesses those who are greedy. This might be a reference to the fact that he himself is greedy. Or, it might just refer to the fact that he supports those who are. Whatever the case, he uses his words to support those who walk contrary to God’s commandments.

The wicked has a foul tongue.

The wicked person’s tongue is “full of cursing and deceit and fraud” and “mischief and vanity.”
The first set of these words focus on making false vows that are never intended to be kept. The wicked person is good at using his words to deceive those around him. He might make promises or vows, but he surely never intends to follow through with them.
The second set of words point towards the misery and the unrighteousness with which his speech is characterized.
If the wicked person is characterized by a certain pattern of speech, then so also is the righteous person. The person endeavoring to follow God must make sure that his speech lines up with the lifestyle he is pursuing. The speech patterns of the wicked should not be found in the righteous.

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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Comfort in the Face of Wickedness - Evil Is Pervasive

Murder, terrorism, kidnappings, drug abuse – these topics dominate the headlines of the daily news. Our culture is steeped in wickedness that seems to invade every aspect of life.
Nothing seems to be sacred or untouched by its effect – even the church itself. Yet, as believers we can find hope and comfort in the character of our God. For, God’s omniscience and omnipotence provide comfort in the face of the prevailing of the wicked.

The entire being of the wicked person is characterized by evil.
In Psalm 10, the psalmist describes the society he faced. It was one in which the wicked prevailed. In his frustration at what he saw taking place around him, he cried out to God, asking Him where He was. He is asking God to respond to the evil that pervades every aspect of the life of the wicked.

The wicked person persecutes the poor.
This persecution is an active pursuing. The poor whom the wicked is pursuing are those who are financially poor and needy. In Leviticus 19:9-10 these are the people for whom God is making provision when He commands the Israelites to leave the gleanings in their fields.
The wicked are not passive in their infliction of evil. Rather, they are actively taking advantage of those who are poor or weak. Therefore, we should not be surprised when we hear of wicked people taking advantage of those who cannot protect themselves. Once again, this is not just a phenomenon which was present in the day of the psalmist, but it is also characteristic of our day and age.

The wicked person lies in wait upon the innocent.
This lying in wait carries with it the weight of premeditation. The wicked person makes plans to purposefully intercept the innocent and to wreak his evil upon them.
The psalmist uses two different pictures here to describe that of which he is speaking.
First of all, he uses the picture of the lion. The audience of the psalmist would have been familiar with the lion. Especially those involved with the sheep keeping would have known that lions would often follow a flock at a close distance in order to wait for the weak sheep to fall behind. Then, they would have an easy prey. This is exactly the picture the psalmist is describing. The wicked prey upon the helpless with the same ruthlessness that the lion depicts.
The second picture that the psalmist uses is that of net. This is not so much a fishing net. Rather, it speaks more of a snare. Just as a hunter would carefully lay out his snares to catch wild animals, so the wicked lay out their schemes to catch the unsuspecting.

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Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Obeying God God's Way - Choices Have Consequences

Jeremiah reminds his people that they cannot simply ignore God’s commands and disobey them without facing the consequences of their actions. Likewise, he reminds them that there are positive consequences if they obey God according to what He has commanded. Jeremiah delineates these for the people so that they can understand the consequences they will face.

Disobedience carries consequences.
Jeremiah outlines two main consequences for the Israelites’ disobedience to God. The first main one is the destruction of Jerusalem and their homes. God promises that if His people do not return to Him, He will destroy Jerusalem, He will give over their wealth and treasure as spoil, and they will be exiled from the land.
The second main consequence is that those who forsake God will be ashamed. The splendor and exalted state of Israel would no longer be visible to the surrounding nations. Ashamedly, the Israelites would see their country lying in ruins.
Even though the Israelites thought they were secure, they failed to recognize that God still had the power to destroy even their secure places.
There are severe consequences for disobeying God. God refuses to be taken lightly and He will judge those who do. Not only do we see Israel being warned of the consequences they would face for their disobedience, but the following records of Scripture tell us that those consequences came to pass. If God Who is just thus judged Israel, will He not in the same way judge us for disobeying Him?

Obedience also carries consequences.
However, not only are there consequences for disobedience, Jeremiah also tells the Israelites of what God has promised if they obey Him. Once again, he outlines two main consequences of obedience to God. First of all, God promises His people power and prosperity if they will obey Him (in this case, specifically in the area of sanctifying the Sabbath). Their princes and kings will have power and opulence. They will prosper and will remain in the land.
The other main consequence is that correct, God-honoring worship would be re-instituted in Israel. The people would gather at Jerusalem from all ends of Israel and bring the God-mandated sacrifices to God. These sacrifices, carried out in obedience to God, evidence genuine worship, not just meaningless rituals.
God desires for us to worship Him genuinely, exalting Him for Who He is. When we do this, He promises to bless us. Maybe not exactly the way in which He promised Israel, but yet still, He will bless us for our obedience.
As the children’s song says, “Obedience is the very best way to show that you believe. Doing exactly as the Lord commands, doing it happily. Action is the key, do it immediately. Joy you will receive. Obedience is the very best way to show that you believe.”

God has the authority to command us to obey Him, and Israel serves as a warning to us. History has shown us what happened to Israel as a result of their disobedience. Their story has been recorded for us as an example. However, we do not need to follow in their mistakes. We have the choice to obey God according to His standards, to obey Him His way. This is the only way to please and honor and glorify Him. Let us not fall into the trap of taking God and His word lightly.

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