Sunday, February 18, 2007

A Great Exhortation from 16 Centuries Ago

This morning in our fellowship I was greatly encouraged. First, in our responsive reading we read from Psalm 109. If I have ever truly believed in imprecatory prayers it is now. I truly believe that everyone there sincerely prayed this Psalm before the Lord today. Then our fellowship gathered around us and prayed for us.

Do not keep silent, O God of my praise! 2 For the mouth of the wicked and the mouth of the deceitful Have opened against me; They have spoken against me with a lying tongue. 3 They have also surrounded me with words of hatred, And fought against me without a cause. 4 In return for my love they are my accusers, But I give myself to prayer. 5 Thus they have rewarded me evil for good, And hatred for my love.

6 ¶ Set a wicked man over him, And let an accuser stand at his right hand. 7 When he is judged, let him be found guilty, And let his prayer become sin. 8 Let his days be few, And let another take his office. 9 Let his children be fatherless, And his wife a widow. 10 Let his children continually be vagabonds, and beg; Let them seek their bread also from their desolate places. 11 Let the creditor seize all that he has, And let strangers plunder his labor. 12 Let there be none to extend mercy to him, Nor let there be any to favor his fatherless children. 13 Let his posterity be cut off, And in the generation following let their name be blotted out. 14 Let the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the LORD, And let not the sin of his mother be blotted out. 15 Let them be continually before the LORD, That He may cut off the memory of them from the earth; 16 Because he did not remember to show mercy, But persecuted the poor and needy man, That he might even slay the broken in heart. 17 As he loved cursing, so let it come to him; As he did not delight in blessing, so let it be far from him. 18 As he clothed himself with cursing as with his garment, So let it enter his body like water, And like oil into his bones. 19 Let it be to him like the garment which covers him, And for a belt with which he girds himself continually. 20 Let this be the LORD’S reward to my accusers, And to those who speak evil against my person.

21 ¶ But You, O GOD the Lord, Deal with me for Your name’s sake; Because Your mercy is good, deliver me. 22 For I am poor and needy, And my heart is wounded within me. 23 I am gone like a shadow when it lengthens; I am shaken off like a locust. 24 My knees are weak through fasting, And my flesh is feeble from lack of fatness. 25 I also have become a reproach to them; When they look at me, they shake their heads. 26 Help me, O LORD my God! Oh, save me according to Your mercy, 27 That they may know that this is Your hand—That You, LORD, have done it! 28 Let them curse, but You bless; When they arise, let them be ashamed, But let Your servant rejoice. 29 Let my accusers be clothed with shame, And let them cover themselves with their own disgrace as with a mantle. 30 I will greatly praise the LORD with my mouth; Yes, I will praise Him among the multitude. 31 For He shall stand at the right hand of the poor, To save him from those who condemn him.

Second, came during my study of Revelation 8. In all of Revelation we see the sovereign hand of God in protecting His people from those who seek their harm and pouring out judgment upon the wicked who oppose His people. During that study I was struck by this quote from Augustine who addressed pagans who claimed that God had failed to rescue His people from their enemies:

: “The whole family of God, most high and most true, has therefore a consolation of its own – a consolation which cannot deceive, and which has in it a surer hope than the tottering and falling affairs of life can afford. They will not refuse the discipline of this temporal life, in which they are schooled for life eternal; nor will they lament their experience of it, for the good things of life they use as pilgrims who are not detained by them, and its ills either prove or improve them.

As for those who insult over them in their trials, and when ills befall them say, ‘Where is thy God?’ [Ps. 42:10] we may ask them where their gods are when they suffer the very calamities for the sake of avoiding which they worship their gods, or maintain they ought to be worshiped; for the family of Christ is furnished with its reply: Our God is everywhere present, wholly everywhere; not confined to any place. He can be present unperceived, and be absent without moving; when He exposes us to adversities, it is either to prove our perfections or correct our imperfections; and in return for our patient endurance of the sufferings of time, He reserves for us an everlasting reward. But who are you, that we should deign to speak with you even about your own gods, much less about our God, who is ‘to be feared above all gods? For all the gods of the nations are idols; but the LORD made the heavens’ [Ps. 96:4-5] .” Augustine, The City of God, i.29

It is truly good to know that our God cares for us and has appointed us, not for wrath, though there may be trials and tribulations (these He has promised), but life and salvation. To Him be the glory forever and ever! Amen.

Finally, in our study of Galatians we covered 2:11-21. In speaking about Paul confronting Peter about not being straightforward about the gospel we spoke of our emotions (a disturbance of the intellect) determining our actions rather than our minds (knowing and understanding the Word of God as to what is right and what is wrong). Quite often, if not always, our sins are a result of us being led by our emotions rather than our minds. It seems Peter faced the same thing. He felt the pressure of the Jews, rather than doing what he knew to be right. We spoke of the fact that though Peter may have not said with his mouth anything about being a Jew to be justified or being circumcised to be justified, his actions betrayed the gospel. After all, Peter was given divine revelation concerning the gospel and the fact that there was now no longer the ceremonial uncleanness spoken of concerning the Gentiles. Paul addressed it and openly and publicly rebuked him for it, because his actions had compelled others to follow him such as Barnabas, a great evangelist of the church. God really did open my eyes to my own situation and once again I was repenting. I do not want the gospel to be maligned or distorted in the circumstances we are facing now. May God grant us the power of His Spirit to be straightforward concerning the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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