“As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God” Psalm 42:1. Here is the picture of someone who had once been part of the core group of believers, worshiping and serving God with the faithful, but has fallen away. The reason is not clear but several times the psalmist asks, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” And yet, his thirst for God is not quenched. His soul pants for God like a deer pants for flowing streams. To the woman at the well in Samaria in John 4, Jesus promises to give living water so that she will never thirst. She too has a downcast soul because of sinful choices she has made in her life. That she was at the well in the middle of day instead of morning or evening shows us how shunned she was from others. Yet, Jesus was able to re-engage her with her thirst. There are so many whose souls are downcast around us. We must help them find their thirst once again. Then, as Psalm 1 shows us, we must have them drink deeply from God’s Word for them to be a tree planted by the water once again. He concludes in Psalm 42:11, “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” Thirsty?
“‘Which of the two did the will of his father?’ They said, ‘The first.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of heaven before you’” Matthew 21:31. So many of us, who have never shared the gospel with another person, sing the lyrics to “I Love to Tell the Story” without really thinking about the contrast between our words and actions. How much like the first son in Jesus’ parable we are who declared to his father that he would work in the vineyard that day but then never did it! To be honest, we might change the lyrics to say, “I hate to tell the story …” or the chorus to “‘Twon’t be my theme in glory ….” (Is ‘Twon’t even a word?) But who would want to sing such lyrics, even if they are more accurate? It's human tendency to make ourselves sound better than we are, to paint a rosier picture of ourselves, to put up a façade to fool others. But, God is not fooled. The son who did his father’s will, we are told, is the one who was honest at first by declaring that he would not obey but then had a change of heart and did his father’s work. This one is likened to terrible sinners, whose reputations could not hide behind facades, but repented.
“In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” Judges 17:6. There’s so much wrong with this story that it’s hard to know where to begin. First, Micah had stolen his mother’s money and listen to her uttering a curse about it. Then, as much as it sounds good that he repented and returned it, she, perhaps no longer counting on it, commissions an idol to be made with it and gives it to Micah, who ordains a son to be his priest before this idol. This is how low the spiritual state of God’s people had sunk to that this mother rewards her son’s repentance of his theft from her by idolatry, and he by a continuation of what was against God. Everyone doing what was right in their own eyes is echoed throughout Judges and also found in the last verse of the book. How this also describes the spiritual state of “Christianity” today! When groups or individuals do not have Christ as king, then they establish their own authority. Carving a god made in their own image, they pat themselves on the back because of their self-proclaimed piety and new moral high ground—all the while condemning those who strive to live by the King’s authority as haters of good.
“After this he loved a woman, whose name was Delilah. And the lords of the Philistines came up to her and said to her, ‘Seduce him, and see where his great strength lies, and by what means we may over-power him, that we may bind him to humble him …’” Judges 16:4-5. Samson had a great problem with self-control, especially where women were concerned. God knew this about him, didn’t approve of it, of course, but used the choices Samson would make to seek “an opportunity against the Philistines” Judges 14:4. It started with the “heifer” from Timnah that the men of city “plowed with” to know the answer to his riddle. Then after a prostitute from Gaza, Samson “loved” Delilah, who would seduce him repeatedly in several attempts of the Philistines to overthrow him. Really, all sexual sin can be traced back to Eden when Adam and Eve failed in their oneness with God and so would struggle in their oneness with each other (Genesis 2:24; 3:1-6; 3:16-19). Lust, any sexual sin outside of marriage, homosexuality, gender dysphoria, redefinition of marriage, or com-munication struggles between spouses all start here but are restored in the Bridegroom coming for His bride.
“Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me” Psalm 41:9. Many of us have experienced someone we believed to be a friend talking about us or doing things against us behind our backs. David could be speaking about his trusted advisor, Ahithophel, whom he learned had gone over to Absalom’s side as David fled Jerusalem for safety in his son’s rebellion. Breaking bread with another describes a closeness found in family or very close companions. One so trusted shouldn’t be lifting his heel to a friend like a horse might kick at his owner. The hurt from this betrayal is very strong … and so it’s no wonder that God-made-flesh, who bore all our sins, had to experience this hurt. After all, if we’re hated, we should remember that He was hated first. So, even though Jesus had selected Judas after praying all night for those who would be His apostles (Luke 6:12-13) and knew that he was a devil who would betray him (John 6:70-71), He tells us in John 13:18 that Judas fulfilled that verse. How so like our God to help us understand the depth of hurt that His Son would endure would give us a first fulfillment of this betrayal in a deposed David.