Fbcsreadthruthebible's Blog

Part of the FBCS 2010 Read Through the Bible Project: Enter the Story. Join the Song.

Archive for May, 2010

Rescued

“So that those whom you love may be rescued” (Psalm 60:5). In today’s readings, the people ask God for deliverance through military victory (Psalm 60), Saul’s stubborn rebellion against God leads to his rejection as king (1 Samuel 15), and Paul calls us to consider ourselves “dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11). In all of this we are invited to reflect on the nature of true rescue and to choose to “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).

“Surely, to obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Samuel 15:22).  The sin of Saul, as presented in 1 Samuel 15, was to rebel against God’s command, thereby writing his own story. As the narrative unfolds, he is seen disobeying (v.9), deceiving (v.13), justifying his behavior (v.15, 20), and blaming others for his sin (v.24). Ultimately, it all adds up to a rejection of God’s word, leading to the Lord’s rejection of Saul as king over Israel (v.26). Similarly, Romans 6 describes obedience to sin as disobedience to God, which leads to death (v.23). In all of this, the consistent message is that we choose between two storylines: that of sin and death, or that of grace and life. The difference between the story of Saul and the teaching of Paul? Obedience as a means of earning God’s favor (Saul), and obedience as a response to God’s grace (Paul) . . .

“For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:14). Gift. In the death and resurrection of Jesus, we are offered freedom from sin (rebellion; stubborn disobedience). Such grace requires a response: Obedience. Willing submission to the will of God; becoming part of God’s story by presenting ourselves “to God as instruments of righteousness” (Romans 6:13). Not out of fear of rejection (Saul), but as a free response to a gift freely given. A religious exercise this is not. While we can never be religious enough to satisfy the law, we really can walk in newness of life by the grace of God. Again we sing it: Amazing Grace!

In Christ Jesus, God has indeed rescued the world God loves! The only question that remains is: Will we respond with the stubborn rebellion that leads to death? Or will we receive the gift, respond in obedience, and live? May we enter the story of life. May we join the song of grace. Amen.

“For the wages of sin is death,
but the free gift of God is
eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
     — Romans 6:23

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About Those Enemies . . .

“Each evening they come back” (Psalm 59:6,14). Enemies. Opponents. People and things that work against us. Those who do not have our best interests in mind . . . They are a persistent part of the story. Jonathan took them on and Saul “fought against all his enemies on every side (1 Samuel 14:47). The psalmist prayed that God would “consume them until they are no more” (Psalm 59:13) . . .  And Jesus? Well. He died for them. That is, us . . .

“While we were enemies” (Romans 5:10). While we were still weak (v.6). While we were sinners (v.8). While we were living in opposition to God and God’s purposes, “Christ died for us,” proving God’s love for us. And in this way “we were reconciled to God” (v.10), “have peace with God” (v.1), and “will be saved by his life” (Romans 5:10). Amazing love? To be sure! Astounding grace? Beyond compare! Reason for gratitude? Absolutely! And how do we express this gratitude? Well. By modeling our lives after that of Christ himself . . .

“Because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts” (Romans 5:5). Not only have we been loved into life by God, but we have been filled with the very love of God. This means, among so many other things, that we take on the character of God and now become part of what God is doing. Difficult as it may be to fathom, in Christ, enemies become recipients of love and hopeful prayer, with the goal of reconciliation to God. Tough work? Yes. An optional endeavor? No. As beneficiaries of God’s love and followers of Jesus Christ, there is only one purpose to the story we have entered, “justification and life for all” (Romans 5:18). May we live into this purpose, singing aloud at all times of God’s steadfast love for all. Amen.

“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,
so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”
     — Matthew 5:43-45

We

“You have done foolishly” (1 Samuel 13:13). Samuel’s word to Saul . . . And who hasn’t? The truth is, we have all, at one point or another, “not kept the commandment of the Lord” (v.13). And, as much as we might like to join the psalmist in “we, they” thinking, to “go astray from the womb” (Psalm 58:3) is a shared reality. Remember Paul’s word in yesterday’s reading: “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23). So . . . if being part of what God is doing is dependent on our perfect obedience, we’re all in Saul’s sandals! However . . .

“For this reason it depends on faith” (Romans 4:16). Being right with God is a gift given by God to those who trust God to make them right — a gift of grace. So Paul teaches in Romans 4. “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness”  (Romans 4:3). Before the law was given. And, further, because this reckoning — this gift — occurred before he had received the sign of the covenant (“been circumcised”), this gift is available to all, Jew and Gentile, insider and outsider, “righteous” and “wicked” alike. Amazing grace! Available to all.

“Now the words ‘it was reckoned to him,’ were written not for his sake alone, but for ours also” (Romans 4:23,24). Thanks be to God! Not only are we all a part of Saul’s foolishness, but we are also all part of Abraham’s promise — if we choose to enter the story and join the song. The only “requirement” is faith in God after the example of Abraham. So it is that “the promise” rests “on grace”  (Romans 4:16). God is, indeed, good. All the time. May we all believe it. Amen.

“He grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God,
being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.”
     — Romans 4:20,21

The Lord Won’t Leave . . .

“The Lord won’t leave his people” (1 Samuel 12:22, NCV). Why? Because leaving (walking away, tossing aside) is not in God’s nature. Thus, whether we consider ourselves “steadfast” (Psalm 57:7), or whether we recognize that we have “done all this evil” (1 Samuel 12:19,20), God remains faithful because God is “steadfast love” (Psalm 57:10).  The Lord won’t leave. So it is that God exercises “divine patience” (Romans 3:25) and, ultimately, gave Christ Jesus “as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith.” Thanks be to God!

“Be merciful to me, O God” (Psalm 57:1). And, thankfully, God is, for “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). That is to say, it is in our nature to leave. To walk away. To toss God aside. Repeatedly. Past and present, Jew and Gentile alike. We all, in the words of the people to Samuel, add to all our sins, more evil (1 Samuel 12:19). And God is faithful still . . . So:

“Do not be afraid” (1 Samuel 12:20). What we cannot do on our own, God in Jesus has done for us! As Paul writes, “For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from the works prescribed by the law” (Romans 3:28). This, then, is the story we are invited to enter and live out: God is faithful, even when we are not. God is merciful and steadfast in love for all. What is left for us is to respond in faith, believing in the God who will not leave us and mercifully gives everything for us. Amen.   

“Awake, my soul!
Awake, O harp and lyre!
I will awake the dawn.
I will give thanks to you, O Lord,
among the peoples . . .”

     — Psalm 57:8,9

Fear and Trust

“He has hidden himself among the baggage” (1 Samuel 10:22). Fear. It can lead us to do strange things. Silly things (Saul). Fear separates people (Jews and Gentiles). Fear can lead to self-deception and a skewed view of God (Romans 2). And ultimately, fear leads to self-destructive behavior: “But by your impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself  . . .” (Romans 2:5). Fear can also lead us into trust . . .

“O Most High, when I am afraid, I put my trust in you” (Psalm 56:3). “When I am afraid.” Fear rises. Fear is a force to be reckoned with. And how I respond to fear is a matter of choice. I can sing the silly song of separation and self-destruction, or I can join the song of trust in God. The amazing thing is this: the decision to embrace trust melts the fear away. Ponder the progress of the song of trust . . . “When  I am afraid, I put my trust in you . . . In God I trust; I am not afraid” (Psalm 56:3,4). The song of trust shifts our focus. From that which we fear (Psalm 56:2), to God, who is with me and  “for me” (Psalm 56:9). Trust, if you will, allows us to step away from the baggage and into the future God has for us!

“This I know, that God is for me” (Psalm 56:9). I do not need to fear the future (1 Samuel 10:22). There is no need to live in fear of the enemy (Psalm 56:9-11). It is not necessary to shut others out (Romans 2). God able to guide the future. God will take care of justice. And God is even gracious and “big” enough to be “for” me and “for” others at the same time! 

God is for me! The song of trust. May we each, this day, step away from the baggage of fear and into the light of trust. Amen. 

“In God, whose word I praise,
In God I trust; I am not afraid;
what can flesh do to me?”
     — Psalm 56:4

The Power of God for Salvation

“The Lord will save me” (Psalm 55:16). Saul is anointed king with a clear purpose: “He shall save my people from the hand of the Philistines” (1 Samuel 9:16) . . . The psalmist, betrayed by a friend, trusts God to save him (Psalm 55) . . .  And the theme of Romans is succinctly stated: In Jesus Christ, God has acted powerfully to save “everyone who has faith” (Romans 1:16) . . .  Today’s texts focus on two key elements of the divine-human story: God’s essential character as the One who redeems and saves, and our need of salvation.

“I have seen the suffering of my people” (1 Samuel 9:16).  God knows our need. God sees our suffering, hears our voices (Psalm 55:17), and knows we are our own worst enemies (Romans 1:18-32). And, while God allows us the freedom to foolishly write our own stories (Romans 1:24,26,28), God also powerfully acts to bring us into the story of salvation. Repeatedly. Faithfully. And most completely in Jesus, the perfect anointed one (“Christ”).

“Salvation to everyone who has faith”  (Romans 1:16). The choice is ours. Call upon God with the psalmist (Psalm 55:16), or exchange the truth about God for a lie (Romans 1:25). “Cast your burden upon the Lord” (Psalm 55:22), or declare your independence, trust in your own wisdom and play the fool (Romans 1:21,22). “Salvation to everyone!” God’s will. “Everyone who has faith.” Our decision. May we, by faith, enter the story of salvation and join the song of the redeemed! Amen. 

“Evening and morning and at noon
I utter my complaint and moan,
and he will hear my voice.”
     — Psalm 55:17

Pray, Pray, Pray

“Samuel prayed to the Lord” (1 Samuel 8:6). Today’s texts are linked by prayer, providing the opportunity to reflect upon the central place that prayer holds in the story of faith. Samuel has just received the elders’ request for a king to govern Israel. This “displeased Samuel” (v.6), which led him to . . . pray. Prayer was Samuel’s first response to a disturbing situation. The same is true for the psalmist, who prays to God for help when seeking deliverance from enemies (Psalm 54).  And in Romans, Paul prays. Without ceasing.   

“Without ceasing I remember you always in my prayers” (Romans 1:9). Paul prays that he might visit Rome. For mutual encouragement (v.12). Samuel prays for guidance. Listening before speaking (1 Samuel 8:7-10). And the psalm writer prays for help (Psalm 54:1) with hope (v.6,7). Different situations, same strategy: Pray. Taken together, the narratives remind us that prayer is the principle means of staying in the story. Indeed, apart from prayer there is no guidance, no help, and little hope. With prayer, on the other hand, comes strength, encouragement, and salvation.

Samuel prayed. Paul prayed. The psalmist prayed. First. Often. Constantly. Both speaking and listening . . . How about us?  Are we committed to prayer? Do we seek God in prayer as a first response? As an ongoing discipline? As a way of life?  Are we staying in the story? O Lord, teach us to pray without ceasing. Keep us in the story. Amen. 

“Hear my prayer, O God;
give ear to the words of my mouth.”
     — Psalm 54:1

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