Synopsis Psalms 28:5-30:12 9/16/2021
Majesty is the experience of something so awesome in stateliness that it leaves and impression. So, as King David thought about it, he observed how God is the very essence of majesty.
And everything is right to honor God’s glory. He found this in the metaphor of the voice of God. From God’s voice proceeded his powerful majesty. In other words, when God speaks, His words change everything. And every sensible person rightly proclaims God’s glory.
Likewise, David praised God for His wisdom. And he thanked God for delivering him from his enemies.
David even acknowledged that he sometimes grew complacent. And he recognized that his distress actually brought him back to his senses. Distress caused him to return to God. And whenever he returned, God healed his circumstances.
David Witnesses Majesty
King David witnessed God’s majesty. It rightly affected. And so, in words that almost literally formed western culture, he wrote about.
Witness to Majesty
Majesty is about experience. Experiencing the majesty of God means to be affected by His awesome power, and wisdom and state.
Now God is both Creator and my Savior. And, as the Scriptures point out, all of creation points to his awesome power and majesty.
So, how is it that I can see the works of God but not experience His majesty?
“We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty.” 2Peter 1:16
Synopsis Psalms 18:9-37 8/31/2021
God’s responds to the cry of righteous people who are oppressed. According to David, he proceeds from heaven in a fearful, black cloud. And in this way, he saves his chosen people.
David believed that God had saved him because he honored his laws. Having been saved, David also remembered to remain humble before God. And he praised God.
More specifically, David recalled how God had empowered him to escape evil. And he used metaphors to describe the exhilaration of this experience because he had nothing else to compare.
David Experienced Salvation
God repeatedly saved David from the most difficult military and political crises any leader could ever imagine. And David celebrated his salvation by describing it in the most lavish and fanciful terms.
He said he felt like he had been given deer’s feet to jump and skip upon the rocky mountains. He felt so strong that it seemed like he could bend a bow made from bronze. In a similar way, it seemed like he could simply leap over a high, fortified wall and attack a city.
In this way, David experienced the exhilaration of having been saved.
So, I’m wondering. Could I be saved and not feel David’s exhilaration?
“But you are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises’ of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” 1 Peter 2:9
Synopsis Psalms 17:1-18:8 8/30/2021
In this portion, a prayer for rescue is followed by rejoicing.
Over the years, King David made many enemies. At various times over the course of his life, these men pursued him. At such times, David cried out to God for protection. Specifically, he prayed for God’s help. And he reminded God that evildoers were also His enemies.
In the next psalm, David rejoiced at God’s victory. He praised God’s might. And he blessed God by celebrating God’s many, excellent virtues.
David’s Personal Enemies
God’s favor rested on David. As a result, he knew great success. But his great success induced envy and jealousy in others. This was true for King Saul, who ruled Israel before David, but it was also true of many other rulers in the region. And, it was even true of members of David’s own family.
And their envy caused them to act like enemies.
Because of original sin and concupiscence, one person’s success usually generates envy in other people. Sometimes this shows up as adversarial behavior. But more often it shows up as a passive aggressive “frenemy”.
If you’re following God, and your walk is producing an effect in your life, then don’t be surprised if someone takes notice. You might even find that you develop and occasional enemy.
So, what should I do if this happens? Well, fortunately, God’s made provision. God’s command is to love my enemies. So, even the envy that causes someone to feel enmity toward me, ought to bring a response in love. And, His plan is that would bring reconciliation and another soul headed for heaven.
So, let’s love our enemies. And like a great philosophical thinker once said, “Make heaven crowded”.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” Matt 5:44
Synopsis Job 33:23-34:20 7/15/2021
Elihu refuted Job’s claims about God. First, he challenged Job’s belief that God hid himself. And then, he contradicted Job’s second argument. God is. And justice comes after creation.
Elihu, God and Justice
In the state of utter dependence, created things cannot speak rationally about justice with respect to their creator. Elihu recognized this essential disparity and deferred to God.
God and Justice
God is God. And I am not. And that is right. It is beautiful. It is true. And it is just.
“You have been told, O mortal, what is good, and what the LORD requires of you: Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.” Mic 6:8
Synopsis Job 8:18-9:28 5/27/2021
After Job voiced his complaint against God, his friend Bildad spoke. Bildad argued that God is just. Specifically, he described how God doesn’t cast away the upright. And, he doesn’t help wicked people.
Job responded by observing that man has no recourse against God. There is no arbiter who can hold God accountable. And so, Job’s conclusion was that God can do whatever he wants to do because he is God. He is irresistibly powerful. And His justice is subordinate to His power.
As a result, no man can even know his own righteousness with confidence. Therefore, as Job began to see it, nothing really matters. In the end, everyone dies.
His experience brought Job to the fatalist dilemma. If nothing is under his control, why should he be held accountable? And, if nothing is under his control, then why should he bother trying?
Job’s world was out of control. In fact, he experienced great loss and unimaginable suffering. But in his complaint, he did not seem to recognize that he still had control of his thoughts. He never lost this ability.
Nothing shows my convictions as much as my acting.
Sometimes I think of my body as an antenna. It receives signals from my environment. But it also gives off signals to my environment. What I am thinking in my mind is only made manifest to the world through the acting of my body.
So, the place of my control is in my mind – in my soul. I own that. As long as I am conscious, it remains my exclusive domain. There is nothing determined here – nothing fatal.
And that is why God wants my heart. Because only I can give it.
“Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.” Rom 12:2
Synopsis 1Maccabees 10:78-11:10 2/16/2021
Upon his return to Syria, King Demetrius named Apollonius his military general. And Apollonius immediately formed an army. From the beginning, he intended to challenge Jonathan and Judea.
So, Jonathan brought his army to the coastal plain. And he attacked Apollonius near Azotus. Even though Apollonius fought well, Jonathan defeated him. The enemy fled into Azotus (formerly known as Ashdod). And Jonathan and his brother Simon sacked and burned the city.
With this victory, King Alexander rejoiced. So, he showered Jonathan with additional resources and honors.
But King Ptolemy was concerned. He perceived that Alexander could not win the civil war against Demetrius. So, he intervened with a secret plan to eliminate Alexander.
Syrian Intrigue and Conquest
The Syrian Empire became ungovernable. From the time of Antiochus, the king’s had overspent. And there was no clear plan of succession. All of this made the empire unstable.
The king of Egypt wanted stability in the region. But perceiving that Alexander could not provide stability, he decided to fill the vacuum of power.
Justifying Intrigue and Conquest
No one wakes up in the morning wanting to do evil. And yet, in the moment of action, everyone justifies their evil behavior.
“all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God.” Rom 3:23
Synopsis 1Maccabees 8:24-9:10 1/29/2021
Upon Maccabeus’ request, Rome sent the terms of a their treaty to Jerusalem. To show their permanence, they sent them on bronze tablets. Additionally, the Roman senate warned King Demetrius in a letter. Specifically, they told the king to leave the Jews alone.
However, all of this took a long time. So, neither the treaty nor the warning arrived promptly.
Meanwhile, upon learning that Judas Maccabeus had defeated Nicanor, Demetrius tried again. This time the king sent Bacchides and Alcimus to invade Judea. Since he was unaware of Rome’s intervention, his generals prepared for battle with a very large army.
When the Jewish soldiers saw the size of the enemy army, two-thirds deserted. This left Judas with only eight hundred men. The enemy had twenty-two thousand soldiers.
In the past, when faced with overwhelming numbers, Judas often chose to flee and reposition his forces. But, although his brothers encouraged him to flee, this time Judas refused.
Maccabeus Desire for Political Solution
Judas exhausted himself. Since before the time his father died, Maccabeus was a priest-warrior. He was totally committed to fight for the right to worship God in the temple. And he fought heroically to accomplish this end.
But his enemies proved intractable. He had fought and defeated the armies of three different Syrian kings. And none of them was willing to give the Jews unfettered control over their worship.
So, at this point in history, he just wanted the fighting to be over. After years of battle, he looked for a Roman alliance to solve his problems. Unfortunately for him, the help didn’t arrive in time. But even if it had, it wouldn’t have solved his problem forever. His political fight could not address the root of his deepest problem.
In this final battle, Judas chose to stand and fight. But his final choice was born less out of faith and more out of exhaustion. He wanted so badly for the fight to be over that he sought a solution through political alliance. However, if Rome couldn’t bring him political salvation, his choice was to embrace a near suicidal assault that he would have rejected just three years before.
Christian Political Warrior
The call of Christ isn’t essentially political. Of course, that’s not to say that Christians shouldn’t participate in whatever the political process might be in the social community where they live.
But politics simply isn’t the fundamental reason, or the most appropriate venue, for my expression as a Christian. And very often, overidentification with some particular political agenda ends up being essentially contrary to the call of Christ, no matter with what good intentions it began.
It’s a struggle because I hate the injustice that I see in the world. And God has certainly called me to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. But too often my desire to participate in political process is really no more than the desire to impose my perspective on others. And this is what makes it essentially contrary to my calling.
Can I really believe that the Kingdom of Heaven will come because I force it into existence over the political objections of others? Like Peter and the apostles, I have to give up this simple-minded misunderstanding of my calling. And like Paul, I need to embrace the idea of living simply and quietly, allowing the manner of my life to challenge the beliefs of others.
So, here’s my prayer: May the good that I do, be the good that I do. And may I leave it to God to use the goodness manifest through me to persuade others to a higher possibility.
“Jesus answered, “My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants [would] be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here.” John 18:36
Synopsis Esther 8E:18-9:2 11/26/2020
Mordecai wrote King Ahasuerus’ response to the edict written by Haman. In it, the king authorized the Jews to defend themselves against those who hated them. And, because God had reversed the genocide planned against His chosen people, they were to celebrate.
In fact, Mordecai mandated that both Jews and Persians of goodwill celebrate this feast.
So, the king ensured this message was widely and rapidly distributed throughout the empire. And the Jews living there received the message’s good news with great joy.
Accordingly, on the thirteenth day of Adar, in accordance with the two edicts, the Jews defended themselves. Specifically, the Jews slaughtered anyone who attempted to attack them.
Purim a Persian-Jewish Feast
Purim is the feast that celebrates Jewish salvation from this ancient attempted genocide. According to Mordecai’s edict, King Ahasuerus’ mandated both Jews and Persians to celebrate this feast.
True Christian Success is Human Success
A Christian cannot claim true success unless the value he or she creates is available for the common good. God spoke to Abraham, “All nations will be blessed through you.”
“When the just flourish, the people rejoice; but when the wicked rule, the people groan.” Prov 29:2
Synopsis Judith 13:14-14:4 10/31/2020
Judith and her maid returned from the enemy camp. It was still dark, when they entered Bethulia’s city gates. But a crowd formed around them to see what had happened.
Almost immediately, Judith reported to the leaders that she had killed Holofernes. As proof, she then showed them the slain general’s head as proof.
The people were amazed. And they praised God for this extraordinary turn of events.
Afterward, Judith counseled the people. The second part of her plan was to send a force early in the morning. According to her plan, the force was fully armed. But, the purpose was to feign an attack on the patrol. This would cause the Assyrians to report the attack to Holoferenes. And when they attempted to report the matter, they would find him dead. In this way, she intended to create a panic amongst the Assyrian soldiers.
It was in this way she believed God would bring victory.
Judith realized that simply killing the great general Holofernes was not enough. Instead, she knew that his death would have maximum effect by creating panic. It follows that an attack that caused the general’s direction would have just the desired effect.
Plan and God’s Plans
God has a plan and purpose for each human person. And, for those He has saved, he orders their days with the intent of maximizing their sanctification. He is making us ready for eternity.
But that doesn’t mean that everything is a mystery. Like Judith, God will use the thoughtful plans that you have made to accomplish His purpose.
“And if prudence is at work who in the world is a better artisan than she?” Wisdom 8:6
Synopsis Nehemiah 9:28-10:2 8/7/2020
In the assembly, the Levites continued their protracted confession. They acknowledged the sins of their Israelite ancestors. And they acknowledged the sins of that current generation.
Furthermore, they declared that God was just in His punishments.
As a result, they similarly declared their intention to re-commit. So, the Israelite leaders signed a new document describing the community’s re-commitment to serve God.
Israelite’s Bind Themselves
The Israelites desired to make a special symbol of re-commitment. Like a slave under the Law of Moses who wished to become a permanent slave, they wanted to meaningfully commit through some kind of event. For the ancient slave, this meant using an awl to pierce his earlobe in the presence of his master. For these Israelites, it meant signing a pledge document.
And for a Christian, it might mean Baptisim, or Confirmation, or some other public confession of their commitment to serve God alone. And very often during such a rite, the entire community is invited to re-commit.
The power of the communal act is in the public avowal.
“Then I will proclaim your name to my brethren; in the assembly I will praise you:” Psa 22:23