From heaven you pronounced judgment, and the land feared and was quiet–
when you, O God, rose up to judge, to save all the afflicted of the land.
Surely your wrath against men brings you praise, and the survivors of your wrath are restrained. (Ps 76:8-10)
Political correctness would tear psalms such as this one from the pages of the Bible. A cheer for the God who destroys enemies and brings rulers to heel? This sounds so foreign because we want a God who stands off at a distance and rolls His eyes at our interpersonal and international battles. No longer does God favor one nation over another or even condone the exclusivity of one religious path.
In Judah God is known; his name is great in Israel.
His tent is in Salem, his dwelling place in Zion.
There he broke the flashing arrows, the shields and the swords, the weapons of war. (vv 1-3)
Modern Christianity is personal. We call it our faith but do not extol its superiority over all others. Why not? We have here in the scriptures proclamations of God’s choice of Israel as His people and the Temple as His dwelling place. Dare we not say the same thing? God has chosen us in Christ and our soul is His dwelling place? Is this defeat for all competing belief systems?
Grace and peace to you..
image by musumemiyuki
While the beggar held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon’s Colonnade. When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Men of Israel, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see. (Acts 3:11-16)
Though it might have been momentarily tempting to claim the glory for healing the beggar, the Spirit in Peter guided him otherwise. He deflected to the accolades and pointed to the true source of power, Jesus Christ. In writing and in speech, we have heard reference to ‘mighty men of God’ and how powerfully the Lord has used men and women to accomplish various miraculous feats. It is easy for our culturally trained minds to hear Reverend So and So or Evangelist so and so were used by God to do this or that and associate the accomplishment with those men or women. We must take a more humble view and reread or relisten to what is said: they were used by God in His power to accomplish His will. They were merely vehicles. Peter is careful here to remind Israel that he too was just the vehicle, that is was the matchless name of Jesus that healed the beggar. It was the God who quickened Jesus and restored Him to life despite the sin of those who had put Him in the tomb and it was this same God who had healed the beggar. Israel, in her sin needed to meditate deeply on this act of Grace.
Is grace clear in your mind today?
The depths of moral bankruptcy seem to know no bottom, do they? We are inundated with opinion pieces masquerading as news in which a victim is portrayed as the aggressor in the Israeli-Gazan conflict. The newsreaders display their lack of principles as they attempt to portray some measure of moral equivalence between the culture of death which rules in Gaza and the democratic, peace-seeking culture of Israel. Will we soon see sympathetic portraits of the Somali pirates?
Sarah Palin was savaged mercilessly during her ninety days in the public spotlight. Her rise through public service was belittled and searched for scandal. The Palin family was trashed and portrayed as ‘Deliverance’ extras, pregnant in their mukluks with questions about lineage paraded across the front page. All this because she proudly stands up for her conservative principles. While all this was happening, the media at large happily avoided any difficult questions of the principles or beliefs of the next president that they so gleefully carried into office. Obfuscations dismissed, questionable relationships ignored, morality murdered.
Perhaps the most disturbing trend that has been developing for some time but is now reaching its zenith is the ascendance of the ‘celebrity pastor.’ These men (and women) have become consumed with self-aggrandizement and promotion. It is especially apparent in the blogosphere where their posts are couched in introductions in which they are “humbled” to have preached at four distant churches on one Sunday as they remind us of how great they have become. Shouldn’t people who have been redeemed and gifted through no aspect of their own character seek out a true humility? True achievement is recognized by others, not ourselves.
Is there anything left in the till for a bailout here?
Reading through the Bible, we can often find it difficult to transition from the dynamic history of Joshua to the short cycles of the Book of Judges. If we are asked to outline it, we generally do well in identifying some of the better known judges like Samson or Deborah because their accounts have illustrated many truths through years but what of Tola or Ehud, the left-handed man?
Judges can challenge us because of the number of different vignettes and Hebrew heroes that we encounter and the repeated cycles of obedience/blessing and disobedience/curse. Why can Israel not see that their preservation relies on obedience to the covenant between themselves and God? Do we have a perspective that the immediacy of history did not offer the Israelites? The inclusion of this compendium of stories in the Hebrew scriptures serves the purpose of allowing God’s people to view the stories in light of historical revelation. Perhaps there is more to be derived from this section of the scriptures than an initial reading might reveal.
The accounts of the Judges describe a humankind that has failed in its imagehood. They show a people who repeatedly decide that they want to be god rather than reflect Him in accordance with their calling. Because of their failure to uphold their end of the covenant, the Israelites find themselves subjects of invading forces. Before Gideon is called, the people of Yahweh had been given by their God into the hands of the invading Midianites. So deep was their fear that they sought shelter wherever they could, including burrowing into caves and mountain valleys. The invaders swept through the land destroying crops and livestock in their wake.
It may have been this reality that cause the Israelites to reconsider their status before God and to cry out to Him.