“And all the people arose as one man, saying, ‘None of us will go to his tent, and none of us will return to his house” Judges 20:8. As one man! When had that happened last? It had to be when God’s people crossed the Jordan at flood stage as if on dry ground when last they were united. This was just after Moses had outlined the blessings for obeying and consequences for not and then died after commissioning Joshua to lead the campaign for the Promised Land. They rallied as one man around their new leader to march silently around the fortified city for six days and then trusted God to bring them a victory with just a shout—that brought down those thick walls. Even then it was shortlived as Achan kept wealth for himself instead of devoting it to the LORD. For God’s people towards the end of the time of Judges, coming together as one man, occurring after they had been shaken from their spiritual complacency by the heinous behavior of the Benjamites, resulted in them being unified in almost wiping out an entire tribe of God’s inheritance. How serious are we as one man to take a unified stand upon God’s Word to live out His Word in His church living out unity in Christ?
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10. We want everything in our lives to be quick and easy. We’ve got TurboTax and Lunchables. How can we cut down the amount of time we might have to wait in a drive-thru line at an already fast food place? A Calvin & Hobbes cartoon shows him looking at the box of a microwavable meal and exclaiming, “Six minutes! Who has that kind of time?” Or my favorite sign—tattoos while you wait. So it is that we want our relationship with God ‘in a hot minute’ as if the eternal Father can be hurried or made to work with our schedules. This isn’t just about the length of services or the preacher’s sermon; it’s about how we want forgiveness for our sins so we can go to heaven. When David was made aware of his sin with Bathsheba, he immediately found forgiveness, yet he was told that his child would die. Perhaps it was the longterm consequences of his sin that prompted the man after God’s heart to repent in the way he did in this psalm. Forgiveness too cheaply won leads to a worldly sorrow and a repeat of same behaviors. God helps us to develop godly sorrow that will lead us to eternal life.
“Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me” Psalm 50:14-15. The Almighty God is all-powerful and above all things. All things are created by Him and for Him. He does not need our sacrifices; we need to sacrifice … or offer ourselves as living sacrifices to Him (Romans 12:1-2). When we do this, then we can expect God to act on our behalf and we, in turn, will glorify Him. This is not a legal or monetary transaction where He gives us the goods if we fork over the money. No, God does not need anything (Acts 17:25). Rather, this is what two do for each other when in a healthy and loving relationship. Addressed in the second half of the psalm are the wicked who have compromised with the world and are content with justifying sin that both they and others do. They don’t even have a right, God says, to “recite my statutes or take my covenant on your lips.” And yet, that’s what every lukewarm pew-warmer and cultural Christian does while identifying as His. It ends with a threat for those “who forget God” and a promise of salvation for those who “orders his way rightly.”
“And all who saw it said, ‘Such a thing has never happened or been seen from the day that the people of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt until this day; consider it, take counsel, and speak” Acts 19:30. When I began ministry over a quarter of a century ago, I had a combination of enthusiasm and naivety that believed the gospel was such good news that anyone hearing it would be compelled to obey it! Forgive-ness of sins? Eternal life with Christ? How could they not? It didn’t take long to realize it takes a lot to shake people out of their spiritual complacency. Then it happened to me. It took my first wife dying of brain tumors to reevaluate my faith and recommit to the enthusiasm I once had. For the Israelites, it took the cut-up pieces of a dead concubine killed by fornicators in Benjamin to shake them from their spiritual slumber. Not since the time of Gideon almost two centuries before had they really returned to God, and slowly through that time they had accepted an increasingly compromised version of what it meant to be God’s people. I wonder what it would take today—when I see the watered-down version of cultural Christianity that many live. What shakes you up?
“And he answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself” Luke 10:27. What does it mean to love God? 1 John 4:10 tells us, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” So, to love God in the way that He wants us to means understanding first how He loved us. In the melancholy hymn, “O Sacred Head,” we lament the physical wounds that Christ endured to bear our sins in His body upon the cross. Music has always helped us to worship in spirit as well as in truth, and so it helps us realize the depth of love that the ‘Word made flesh’ had for us that we must have for Him to truly sing “My Jesus, I love Thee.” How easy it is to love One who loves us so! And so, Jesus demands “that you love one another as I have loved you” and then further explains what He means, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” John 15:12-13. To love “your neighbor as yourself” means then that just as Christ died for us, we are to love Him and show that by laying down our life for others.