Tuesday, November 22, 2011

#22 A "Sacrifice of Thanksgiving"

     When I am not involved in a structured Bible study, I often return to reading one chapter of Proverbs and five from Psalms daily, according to the date. The Psalms for today are 106-110, and the Proverb is chapter 22. Today's Psalm 106 struck me as appropriate for my Thanksgiving week and, perhaps, yours too.  It begins as follows:

"Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
Who can speak of the mighty deeds of the Lord,
Or can show forth all His praise?
How blessed are those who keep justice, 
Who practice righteousness at all times!" Psalm 106:1-4
     Hmmm. Woe is me if I stop right there after verse 4 in the Psalm. How wonderful (read with a hint of sarcasm) for those who" keep justice" and "practice righteousness at all times" (whoever that may be), but that group doesn't include me! The psalmist follows with "remember me, O Lord" and "visit me with thy salvation" because he admits in verse 6, "We have sinned like our fathers. We have committed iniquity, we have behaved wickedly." Now, that's a group with whom I can identify. David admits that his people "did not understand Thy wonders", "did not remember Thine abundant kindnesses",  and "rebelled" (v. 7).
     In my own life I have been guilty of the same failures:  I didn't understand why bad things happened in my life--divorce, illness, death, abuse--and I railed against my Heavenly Father, demanding an explanation, saying "I just don't understand." God's persistent reply has been "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and don't lean on your own understanding." (Proverbs 3:5). When bad times came, I often "did not remember" God's kindness and mistakenly believed that He had turned into a punitive, harsh, and bullying Father Who was punishing me for the bad behavior of my family or myself. Consequently, I committed and justified  rebellious acts against God, just as the Israelites did (v 7). The consequences of my own behavior still linger, like ever widening circles in a pond after a stone is thrown  into it.
     My behavior, my mistakes, and my rebellion, however, are not too difficult for God.

"Nevertheless, He saved them for the sake of His name, that He might make His power known." Psalm 106:8

He saved the Israelites, and He saved me. But the Psalm doesn't end in verse 8. David continues with a litany of Israel's sins and God's responses to them. What God did or allowed is printed in blue, and Israel's actions are printed in red:
God rebuked the Red Sea, dried it up, led them through, saved them from those who hated them, redeemed them from their enemy, and killed all among the enemy.
The Israelites believed His words, sang His praise, then quickly forgot His works, didn't wait for His counsel, craved intensely,and tempted God.
He gave them their request and sent a disease.                          
They became envious of Moses & Aaron.
The earth swallowed up some, and a fire consumed the wicked.           
They made a calf as an idol and worshiped it and forgot God their Savior.
God said He would destroy them.                                             
Moses "stood in the breach before Him."
God turned away His wrath                                                      
They despised the pleasant land, did not believe His word, grumbled, didn't listen to God's voice.                    God said He would cast them down and scatter them.                    
They joined themselves to Baal-peor and ate sacrifices to the dead.
God became angry. A plague broke out.                                   
Phineas interceded for the people.
The plague stopped, and Phineas' prayer was "reckoned to him for righteousness, to all generations forever."   They provoked God at Meriba and rebelled against His Spirit.  Moses spoke rashly.
God was provoked.                                                                  
It went hard with Moses
God told them to destroy the enemy.                                        
They did not destroy the enemy, mingled with them, learned their practices, served their idols, were trapped, sacrificed their children to demons, and shed the innocent blood of their children that they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan. The land was polluted, the people became unclean, and they played the harlot in their deeds. The Lord became angry, He abhorred His inheritance,  and He gave them over to the nations who hated them.       
Their enemies oppressed them, and they were subdued. They were rebellious and sank in their iniquity.         God saw their distress, heard their cry, remembered His covenant, relented according to the greatness of His  lovingkindness, and made them objects of compassion.         
David prayed to God to save them, to gather them so that they could give thanks to God and give Him praise. He said, "Blessed be the Lord. the God of Israel, from everlasting even to everlasting. Let all the people say, "Amen ." Praise the Lord!"
In essence, David called the people to gather and to give God thanks.

     In my life I have been much like the Israelites--fickle, short-sighted, quick to act, and slow to remember God's promises, His faithfulness, and His past acts of kindness. The words in red could be a listing of my own sins and, indeed, the sins of our nation.

"We have sinned like our fathers, 
WE have committed iniquity, we have behaved wickedly.
Our fathers in Egypt did not understand Thy wonders,
They did not remember Thine abundant kindnesses,
But rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea." Psalm 106:6-7

      May Psalm 106 be a wake-up call to me personally and to others who may read it today. May we ask ourselves these questions:
How have we exchanged the Glory of our God for our own selfish desires? (verse 20)
Have we "stood in the breach" before God for others and for our nation? Have we "stood up and interposed"? (verses 23, 30)
Have we "mingled with the nations, learned their practices, served their idols, and thus sacrificed our sons and daughters to the demons?" (verses 35-37)
Have we shed innocent blood? (verse 38)
Have we "become unclean in our practices"? (verse 39) 
Are we guilty of the same spiritual infidelity the Israelites exhibited? 

     When I answer these questions honestly, I become sad and experience conviction in my spirit. The world is a terribly dark place, and all seems lost. We are an ungrateful nation that is traveling the same bleak road as the Israelites did before us, and the outcome does not look promising. Therefore, may we all use this week to ask God to forgive us both for the things we have done wrong and for the things we have failed to do. May we determine that we will not go blindly any further down the road of despair or give way, in helpless and hopeless submission, -- a dying nation living in the shadow of a gleeful enemy. May we as Christians not retreat and hide. Instead, may we read on and find in the next passage, Psalm 107, our song in the night:

"Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His lovingkindness is everlasting. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the adversary." (v. 1-2)
"Their soul fainted within them. Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble; He delivered them out of their distresses." (v.5-6)
"Let them give thanks to the Lord for His lovingkindness, and for His wonders to the sons of men! For He has satisfied the thirsty soul, and the hungry soul He has filled with what is good." (v. 8-9)
"There were those who dwelt in darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in misery and chains, because they had rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High." (v. 10)...
"Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble; He saved them out of their distresses. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death and broke their bands apart." (v. 13-14) 
(Praise God! He did this for me.)
"He sent His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions." (v.20)
So, here then is my instruction from God:

"Let them give thanks to the Lord for His lovingkindness, and for His wonders to the sons of men! Let them also offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of His works with joyful singing." (v. 21-22)

I will remember His lovingkindness! I will offer Him the sacrifice of thanksgiving! I thank Him both for bringing us through trials as well as sparing us from what we deserve. We serve a great and mighty God Who is ever faithful. Let us acknowledge that we need Him!

"He sets the needy securely on high away from affliction, and makes his families like a flock. The upright see it, and are glad; but all unrighteousness shuts its mouth. Who is wise? Let him give heed to these things; and consider the lovingkindnesses of the Lord." Psalm 107:41-43  

May you all be blessed with God's presence this Thanksgiving, and may you remember HIM as the source of all that is good in our lives.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Songs in the Night: #21 Believing Thomas

Songs in the Night: #21 Believing Thomas: When one hears the name "Thomas", he easily associates it with the Biblical disciple named Thomas. Unfortunately for those named Thoma...