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Psalm 49 June 29, 2019

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 49.

Summary: In this passage, the Sons of Korah proclaim that no one is immortal, as all will eventually expire. Moreover, this outcome cannot be forestalled by wealth, possessions, or power – as these are ephemeral.

Thus, the people of God should not be intimidated by those who are affluent. Instead, they should seek wisdom from Him – as this is eternal.

Thoughts: In this passage, the psalmist exhorts the people of God to not fear those who are affluent. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 6:

We are not dismayed. Great strength, position, and estate make wicked men very lofty in their own esteem, but the heir of heaven is not overawed. He sees the small value of riches, and the helplessness of their owners in the hour of death.

This passage spurred me to consider a tangential topic: the lives of the affluent. One of the sidebar notes in my NIV Study Bible asserts that:

Wealth isolates the rich from some threats experienced by poor people, such as death by starvation, disease caused by malnutrition and lack of protection from wild animals. Wealth may also insulate people from some social problems such as riots, warfare and flooding.

While I (probably) belong to the upper middle class, I am curious as to how I would live if I were suddenly placed in the upper class. Would my habits and/or thought processes change? How would I treat my peers? Would I attempt to join a new social circle? Would I be compelled to utilize my additional income for God’s glory? Would I even remain mindful of God? If I were to fall gravely ill, how would I respond to my predicament?

In verse 20, the psalmist asserts the futility of accumulating wealth while neglecting wisdom from God. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

Understanding differentiates men from animals, but if they will not follow the highest wisdom, and like beasts find their all in this life, then their end shall be as mean and dishonorable as that of beasts slain in the chase, or killed by the butcher. Saddest of all is the reflection that though men are like beasts in the degradation of perishing, yet not in the rest which animal perishing secures, for alas it is written, “These shall go away into everlasting punishment.”

This passage implies that living wisely has “everlasting” benefits, while wealth merely applies to “this life.” That point raises questions such as: how do we live for the next life? How can we actually store up treasures in heaven? Will those believers who live “more” wisely receive more blessings in heaven? Lately I have pondered the wisdom of doing good deeds in secret – or, at the very least, serving among acquaintances. Such acts force us to ponder God’s approval and combat our craving for the plaudits of our friends. How do we know when God is pleased with our acts of charity? How can we rest in His approval when we do not receive feedback from others?

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The Death of Jesus November 3, 2018

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Here are my thoughts on Matthew 27:45-56.

Summary: In this passage, Jesus yells, “my God, why have You forsaken me?” at three in the afternoon. After yelling again, He voluntarily gives up His spirit.

Several dramatic events occur during – and after – His death, including:

  • the Sun goes out from noon until three in the afternoon
  • the curtain that surrounds the Holy of Holies is ripped from top to bottom
  • a devastating earthquake
  • a resurrection.

The centurion and the soldiers under his command who have been guarding Jesus are terrified at these events; they declare that Jesus is the Son of God.

Thoughts: In verse 51, we see that at the death of Christ, the curtain that surrounds the Holy of Holies is torn in two. Ryle offers some thoughts on this point:

But there was a meaning in the sudden tearing of the curtain from top to bottom which must have pricked the heart of any intelligent Jew. The conscience of Caiaphas, the high priest, must have been hard indeed if the news of that torn curtain did not fill him with dismay.

I am curious as to how Caiaphas, the chief priests, the Pharisees, and the teachers of the law responded to this dramatic event. Did they dismiss it as a mere coincidence with the death of Jesus? Did they fail to ponder its significance – and immediately commission a new curtain? How did they respond to the darkness that spread over Jerusalem before His death? How did they respond to the devastating earthquake and the resurrection after His death? Did any of them sense that God actually caused these events? I assume that I will never receive an answer to these queries (though I hope to meet at least some of these Jewish elites in the next life and learn how they eventually came to faith in Christ).

In verse 54, we see that at the death of Christ, the centurion and the soldiers under his command who have been guarding Him assert His divinity. I am curious as to how their relationship with God progressed from that point. Did they possess genuine faith in Jesus as their Lord and Savior? If so, did their superiors punish them for worshiping a foreign deity? If not, how swiftly did they reaffirm their belief in the Roman deities? Did they believe that Jesus was divine – while failing to ponder His exclusive claims to divinity? Did they ever come to regret their harsh words and deeds toward Him in the hours preceding His death?

The Plot Against Jesus September 22, 2018

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Here are my thoughts on Matthew 26:1-5.

Summary: In this passage, Jesus completes the Olivet Discourse and then informs His disciples of God’s plans regarding His death.

The chief priests and the Jewish lay nobility then meet to plot His death, planning to wait at least eight days before acting.

Thoughts: Here, the chief priests and the Jewish lay nobility are cognizant of Jesus’ popularity, knowing that they cannot execute their plot against Him during the week-long Passover. Their thoughts on this point sharpen the contrast between their unrighteousness and His righteousness. While He is entirely faultless, they seek to preserve their lofty status among the Jews – knowing that the Romans would punish them in the event of a riot by their “subjects.” Now I should note that as a modern-day believer, I am tempted to adopt an air of superiority towards the chief priests and the Jewish lay nobility in this passage. Yet I know that this passage – and the remainder of Matthew – only reinforces the following points:

  • only He is righteous
  • His suffering and death stem from my unrighteousness
  • I need Him as my Savior.

The Healing of a Boy with a Demon June 9, 2018

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Here are my thoughts on Matthew 17:14-23.

Summary: In this passage, Jesus and His disciples encounter a man in a posture of reverence. He asks Jesus to have compassion on his son, as his son has life-threatening grand mal seizures. Moreover, His disciples have not healed his son – indicating that they have failed to appropriate the power that He has given them.

Jesus responds by:

  • bemoaning the failure of all of His contemporaries
  • casting out the source of the boy’s grand mal seizures – a demon
  • asserting that the faith of His disciples needs to grow.

He also predicts that:

  • He will be betrayed to the Jewish leaders – who will kill Him
  • God the Father will raise Him from the dead after three days.

His disciples are despondent, as they fail to comprehend these predictions.

Thoughts: Here, we see that the nine disciples who did not witness the Transfiguration failed to cast out a seizure-inducing demon. Ryle offers some thoughts on this point:

Second, we see in these verses a striking example of the weakening effect of unbelief. The disciples anxiously inquired of our Lord, when they saw the devil yielding to his power, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” (verse 19) They received an answer full of the deepest instruction: “Because you have so little faith” (verse 20). Did they want to know the secret of their own sad failure in the hour of need? It was lack of faith.

When I first read through this passage, I found fault with these nine disciples. Shouldn’t they have been empowered by Jesus’ repeated demonstrations of His divine power? Why did they fail to grasp the power that He had given them? After pondering this point, I realized that even Peter, who had witnessed the Transfiguration, would later deny Him three times. Clearly, the timing was not right for God to display His power through these nine disciples. One potential modern-day application of this point is that patience is a salient feature of the Christian life. We often bewail our weaknesses and lament our inability to serve as flawless vessels of God’s grace. Yet this passage reminds us that in this life, we will not be completely sanctified; we will fall short of perfection. Can we trust in God to perfect us in His timing? Can we hew to a long-term view of our walk with Him?

The Narrow and Wide Gates January 13, 2018

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Here are my thoughts on Matthew 7:13-14.

Summary: In this passage, Jesus states that His disciples must allow themselves to be mastered by either 1) God (and prosper) or 2) sin (and perish). Since a denial of self is concomitant with mastery by God, the whole world tends toward mastery by sin.

Thoughts: This passage spurred me to ponder the following question: how can we know, at any moment, if we are walking on the “broad” road or the “narrow” road? While I cannot provide a definitive answer to this question, one thought is that if we become complacent in our walk with God, then we could wander from the “narrow” road; in particular, we could believe that we do not need His presence on a daily basis. Another thought is that experiencing discomfort in our walk with God does not imply that we will remain on the “narrow” road; in particular, one can respond to suffering by blaming Him for it. In light of these challenges, perhaps we need to ponder these questions:

  • How can we guard against spiritual complacency?
  • Will God lead us into trials as we guard against spiritual complacency?
  • If we suffer in the midst of these trials, can we still rejoice in Him?

Indeed, rejoicing in the midst of trials constitutes an important step along the “narrow” road.

Day of Disaster April 2, 2017

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Here are my thoughts on Jeremiah 16:1-17:18.

Summary: In this passage, God commands Jeremiah to refrain from marrying – and bearing children – as He will cause His people to perish via plague, famine and sword. Moreover, He will not allow anyone to mourn their deaths or bury them. Indeed, He will cause their land to be bereft of all joy and gladness, and all who remain will be exiled.

God declares that this punishment stems from their forsaking Him and worshiping other gods. This punishment will display the glory of His name to them.

He then draws a contrast between those who trust in other gods and those who trust in Him – stating that the latter group will be blessed. Since Jeremiah trusts in Him, he calls on Him for deliverance from those who oppose his prophetic ministry.

Thoughts: In verses 1 and 2 of chapter 16, we see that God commands Jeremiah to refrain from marriage and childbearing. Calvin offers some thoughts on this point:

This is a new discourse, not unlike many others, except that the prophet is commanded not to marry or have any children in that land. The instruction against marriage was full of meaning. It was to show that the people were wholly given up to destruction.

When I meet Jeremiah in the next life, I plan to query him on this point. Had Jeremiah contemplated the prospect of marriage before he heard God’s commandment in this passage? Was he actually betrothed to anyone at that time? Did he wrestle with God after receiving His commandment, asking Him for mercy on this point? Did he inform his family of this commandment, and if so, how did they respond to it? When did he comprehend God’s higher purposes for him?

In verse 10 of chapter 16, we see that the people of Judah responded with incredulity to Jeremiah’s dire prophecies. Calvin offers some thoughts on this point:

God shows here that the people indulged themselves so much in their vices that nothing could make them repent. It was great blindness, even madness, not to examine themselves when they were struck by God’s hand.

As a modern-day believer, I readily fall into the trap of condemning the people of Judah and wondering, “how could they be so ignorant regarding their sins? Didn’t they know that child sacrifice, deception and idol worship deeply offended God?” Yet I should remember the context of this passage. The spiritual state of the people of Judah was tied to that of their sovereign – and King Manasseh had revived these vices in their land. While they may have initially recoiled at these sins, they eventually became inured to them. We should consider any parallels between our society and that of Judah at that time. We should identify our modern-day vices, using Scripture as our guide, and view them as abhorrent and repulsive.

In verses 5-8 of chapter 17, we see that God contrasts the fortunes of those who do not trust in Him and those who do trust in Him. Calvin offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verses 7 and 8:

The prophet points out the difference between God’s true servants, who trust in him, and those who are inflated with their own false imaginations, so that they seek refuge either in themselves or in others. The faithful are like trees planted by water, sending their roots out to the river. God’s servants are planted, as it were, in a moist soil, irrigated continually by streams of water.

This passage reminded me of Psalm 1 and its declaration that God will bless the one who trusts in Him. One thought on this point is that a genuine trust in God is displayed during trials – when one is confronted with the following questions:

  • should they approach the difficulty at hand by placing their trust in God?
  • should they ignore God and attempt to solve their problem entirely on their own?

This is why I found the reference to “a year of drought” in verse 8 to be apt. Trials are inherent to this life, and as believers, we must ask ourselves: how will we respond to them? Will we still be able to bear fruit, or will we wither and grow spiritually useless? Clearly we need God’s strength and wisdom to remain fruitful at those times.

The Valley of Slaughter February 19, 2017

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Here are my thoughts on Jeremiah 7:30-8:3.

Summary: In this passage, God speaks through Jeremiah, condemning the people of Judah for their idolatrous actions, including:

He will punish them by causing them to perish in the Valley of Ben Hinnom; moreover, they will run out of room to bury their dead in that place. Furthermore, all of the dead will be exposed to carrion fowl and other wild animals – serving as a just punishment for their worship of the heavens.

Thoughts: This passage reminds me of the macabre imagery in Revelation 19:11-21 concerning the punishment of the wicked. The following question also occurs to me: what is the impact of exhuming a corpse and allowing it to be ravaged by carrion fowl and other wild animals? Clearly this action has no effect on the one who is deceased, as their soul has already departed from their body and cannot be damaged through physical means. One thought is that we should consider the effect of this action on those who are still alive. Indeed, a sense of decency and humanity compels us to honor the dead by giving them a proper burial. Thus, if the dead are not properly buried, our sense of decency and humanity is offended, and we ponder the rationale for that action. It is God’s desire that we arrive at the following conclusions:

  • He hates sin – whether it is committed in the Old Testament or the New Testament
  • we must abhor what He detests and cherish what He embraces.