Moses and Eternal Mindset

Mindset matters. When life is hard, when circumstances are frightening, mindset matters. And God’s word regularly reminds us of where to place our thoughts so as to be able to survive in a broken world.

Psalm 90:12

So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.

Psalm 90 is the only Psalm I know of that is attributed to Moses. In it, that great man of God talks about the brevity of human life and its hardships. Of course, who in the Old Testament would know of this more. Moses saw so very much death in his days. An entire generation, millions of people, died in the wilderness over the 40 years of wandering. And it had to get to Moses as it would get to any caring person trying to survive this world.

In his prayer, Moses recognizes that there is wisdom in asking the Lord to help us to number our days rightly. That is, Moses is asking that he and those around him would understand the shortness of human life in comparison to the eternity that stretches before us all. Whether a person lives a hundred days or a hundred years, his or her life is but a blip on the radar when we consider a million years and beyond.

In Colossians 3, Paul reminded Christians to set our minds on things above. It is the same principle. We live in a hard world. We do all that we can to see God glorified in this life. We try to care for our family, our church, our friends. We do what we can to make ends meet, to provide for our loved ones, to give to the needy. We try to fix broken political systems, institute just laws, and battle for the lives of the defenseless. But we are living in a fallen world where our best efforts can seem to be insufficient.

Biblical counsel calls us to, in dimes of fear or discouragement especially, number our days rightly. We need to remember that the 80 years that we may live are but a drop in the bucket of our existence. We are barely on the first step of the front porch of our real lives. The door beyond that will open when this life is at an end is where we will truly live. Yes, our lives here matter as we have the opportunity to glorify God in the here and now. But what will matter even more is the forever that is to follow.

Christian, as you think about your life, do not forget forever. When things are hard or scary, think eternally. When you feel disappointed that you may never afford that sweet European vacation, remember that you will have eternity with Christ after his return to see sights that would make the grandest vistas of this age seem as nothing. Whenever you feel that your health has let you down, remember that all who are in Christ have life promised us, life and brand new, never-wearing-out, resurrection bodies. Whenever you think that the things you do today are irrelevant to a big world that will not listen, remember that we live for the God who made us and who sees us inside and out. Remember forever in Christ, and you will walk stronger through the ugly of the here and now.

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Naaman and a Picture of the Gospel

There are pictures of the gospel to be found all through Scripture. God wants his people to see that his ways and his truth have never changed. So, even in times when the plan of God to save a people by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone was still only hinted at in shadow, God turned certain events to help us see how he would work.

Consider the story of Naaman the Syrian in 2 Kings 5. Naaman had a dreadful disease from which he needed healing. He went to Israel looking for a cure from the Lord. When he approached Elisha the prophet, Elisha gave him simple instructions. The foreign general was to wash in the Jordan 7 times, and he would be restored.

Watch how Naaman responded to Elisha, and you will see something of the problem many have with the gospel.

2 Kings 5:9-14 – 9 So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stood at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.” 11 But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, “Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. 13 But his servants came near and said to him, “My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 14 So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.

Naaman was offended. He was offended that Elisha did not treat him with extra respect because of his rank. He was offended that Elisha did not come out and perform some sort of religious ceremony. There was no sacrifice. There was no dancing or anointing. It was just a command to go and wash in the river. When Naaman finally relented enough to do what he was told, however, he was healed.

In our world, people struggle with the gospel for a variety of reasons. Of course, in our day, many are so in love with their sin that they want nothing to do with the gospel. They want nothing to do with the God who would limit their evil. But there are those who struggle with the gospel because it seems too simple. They believe that more must be required of a person to be truly made right with the Creator. They assume that religious rights and rituals, sacrifices and bowings, ceremonies and mystical chants must be required for something as significant as the salvation of a soul.

Here is the amazingly good news. God saves sinners by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. A person does not have to pass through some sort of ritualistic testing ground to be saved. We do not have to climb the highest mountain or sleep for 40 days in the cold. No, in order to be saved, a person merely turns from his own sinful desire to control his life, trusts in Jesus, and is saved. When a believing sinner turns to Jesus for life, that sinner finds that God has already done all the work to save him. God has provided the righteousness that we could never live. God has provided the sacrificial substitute in Jesus. God has even given us the faith to believe. All the work to save us, absolutely all of it, was done by the Lord. And so we simply let go of trying to make ourselves right with God and surrender to Jesus in faith. Then, like Naaman simply slipping into the Jordan River, we find that we are made whole by the grace of God through Jesus Christ.

How Much Provision?

When you pray for God to meet your financial needs and provide for you and your family, how much do you ask for? Do we follow the model of the prosperity preachers and claim the right to have a jet, sports car, and mansion? Do we follow the path of the ascetic, asking for only enough bread and water not to starve?

Proverbs 30:7-9

7 Two things I ask of you;
deny them not to me before I die:
8 Remove far from me falsehood and lying;
give me neither poverty nor riches;
feed me with the food that is needful for me,
9 lest I be full and deny you
and say, “Who is the Lord?”
or lest I be poor and steal
and profane the name of my God.

In the proverb here, we see a simple wisdom regarding what we should desire from God when it comes to finance. There are two requests. The writer asks for God not to give him too much and for God not to give him too little.

The prayer for God not to give too little is an obvious one. We do not want to lack; none of us like that. I would think that everybody of the modern age who has prayed about provision has asked for God not to leave us without something we need.

But the other prayer is interesting. The writer also asks for God not to give him too much. That one is strange to our ears. Most folks do not say to God, “Be careful. Do not give me more wealth and comfort than I should have.”

What you need to see is the rationale behind why the writer prays both things. The same motivation is behind the proverb writer’s prayers not to have either too much or too little. The writer does not wish to dishonor the Lord. He wishes to properly show the value and the glory of God. And thus, the writer prays for God to give him just enough, neither too little nor too much.

Having too little could lead the writer to dishonor God. The man is honest. If he lacks food to feed his family, he might be reduced to stealing. He does not want to steal, as he knows that theft dishonors God. But he also knows that letting his own family starve would dishonor God. The man does not want temptation to do wrong to gain wealth, so he asks God to provide. But the prime motivation, please see it, is to be sure he properly honors the name of God.

Similarly, in the prayer that we find weird in our greed-saturated, comfort-focused culture, the proverb writer asks God not to give him too much. Why? He has the same motivation. He does not want to get so comfortable that he forgets that he still needs God. He does not wish to dishonor the Lord. He wants to live to the glory of God, and that includes being sure that he does not become so self-sufficient that it appears to him that he can make it on his own.

Friends, we can learn from these prayers. Our prayers need to be focused first and foremost on the honor of the name of the Lord. What will give God glory? What will show the world around us that God is great. What will prevent us from falling into sin and so dishonoring the Lord? These are the things that we should be asking God to give us. We should always ask God to answer our prayers in the ways that will most give him the glory he is so richly due.

Another Call not to Add to God’s Word

Proverbs 30:5-6

5 Every word of God proves true;
he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.
6 Do not add to his words,
lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.
God’s words are all true, every one of them. All Scripture is perfect and perfectly inspired by God. As believers, our lives hang on that truth. If God’s word is untrue, there is simply no source of authority upon which we can rely. Since God has spoken, inspiring a perfect word, we can know him and know what he requires.

In the proverb above, we also see the wise reminder that we must not add to that holy and perfect word of God. If we do, God will prove us to be liars.

Where does it happen that mankind attempts to add to the word of God? Some add to God’s word by declaring that god has said to them things he did not say. Be very careful when you claim that God has told you something. It is much wiser for a Christian to express that he or she feels like something is the Lord’s will or that he or she, after much prayer, has a strong desire to do this or that. But when a person says that God has told them something, he or she is walking on dangerous ground. If that thing that you claim that the Lord has told you proves to be untrue, are you not entering the realm of the false prophet?

But it is not merely the false claim of divine communication that is adding to the word of God today. Many add to the word of God because they are submitting to the culture around us and extrapolating principles from secular thinking to read back into God’s word. The person who adds to Scripture a secular standard of justice is, in a sense, adding to the word of God. The person who reads into Scripture modern sexual ethics is adding to the word of God. The one who reads into Scripture modern views of gender that differ from the clearly given Scripture is adding to the word of God. And the word of God tells us that, in all these, the person who reads such things in such ways will be proven a liar by God himself.

May we treasure the word of God. May we remember that there is no value that we can add to the word of God. We are far better off honoring God by simply reading, understanding, and faithfully explaining the word of God. God wants you to know his word, understand his word, apply his word, and live by his word.

Context is King

In biblical interpretation, no rule rises above the simple necessity of interpreting a verse in its context. All Scripture is breathed out by God. All Scripture, every individual word and verse, is perfect and perfectly inspired by God. We call that the doctrine of plenary, verbal inspiration. All Scripture is sufficient to bring about in us all that the Lord intends for us concerning life and godliness (cf. 2 Peter 1:3).

As we deal with this perfect and holy text, one major mistake that we make is in thinking that we can handle an individual verse as an individual thing. This is not the case. Verses of Scripture are not individual pearls that can be separated from the strand and admired as single jewels. Instead, the flow of verses together, the building of arguments and proclamations are vital to our rightly handling the Bible.

Take the verse often quoted in prosperity theology, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13). Out of context, that appears to be a verse in which a man or woman can claim aptitude for any profession and strength for magnificent accomplishment in Christ. Thus, a Christian baseball player hits a homerun every time because of Jesus (Don’t ask what happens if the pitcher is a believer too.).

But let’s take a peek at context. Paul was in prison in Rome and writing to the Philippians. The Philippians had found out about Paul’s time of trial, and they had sent help his way. They were concerned for his wellbeing, and they seem to have sent a gift or two to supply his physical needs while under arrest. Look at the passage in that light.

Philippians 4:10–13 – 10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

In verses 11-12, Paul says that he is particularly not trying to tell the Philippians that he could not survive without a little more money. ON the contrary, Paul was telling the church that he, under the tutelage of Christ, had learned to be content. He was content when he had nice clothes and a soft bed. He was content when he suffered great hardships.

Paul’s willingness to survive whether he has plenty or goes hungry is the context for the statement, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” The phrase, “all things,” does not have anything to do with hitting a baseball, leading a corporation, performing a miracle, or investing in the stock market. No, the all things that he can do, in context, is the all things of living in times of plenty and times of want. Paul is saying, in the all things he can do through Christ, that he can be poor, devastatingly poor, and still love Jesus. And Paul is saying that he can have a very nice cash flow, and not love it more than Jesus.

Paul’s words have nothing to do with naming a prosperity and claiming it as his right. On the contrary, Paul is saying that he will joyfully live through all circumstances, happy and sad, by the strength of Jesus. As we often hear in wedding vows, Paul is saying that he has learned to joyfully trust in Jesus for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, in prosperity and in adversity.

Let Philippians 4:13 give you joy, but not ripped out of the flow of the text. That verse reminds us that we can love Jesus and be OK in all sorts of easy and hard times. Our circumstances, our wealth, our poverty, have nothing to do with our relationship with God. There will be wealthy Christians and poor Christians. There will be sick Christians and healthy Christians. There will be pro athletes and folks who cannot control their weight. There will be corporate CEOs and hard-working ditch-diggers. And the trick is for us to know that, because of Jesus, because of his strength, because of his Holy Spirit, we can learn to do all things, handle all circumstances, because of our Lord.

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Who Understands Justice Completely?

Maybe it is simply because justice is such a buzz word lately, but this verse leapt out at me in my reading of Proverbs 28.

Proverbs 28:5

Evil men do not understand justice,
but those who seek the Lord understand it completely.

Here we have an antithetical parallelism. That is a poetic technique often employed in Hebrew poetry, especially in wisdom literature, in which a clear contrast is made. We often will see two opposite kinds of people or attitudes compared and two opposite results obtained.

In this verse we are dealing with who understands justice. One group lacks the capacity to understand justice at all. Another group will have complete understanding of justice. If the Bible is going to be this clear on who gets and who does not get justice, we probably should pay attention.

The comparison is simple too. We see evil men on the one hand. That should lead us to expect a polar opposite on the other. And, in fact, we get that opposite, but not perhaps what people would expect. The opposite of evil men is not good men. No, the opposite is those who seek the Lord. Of course, this would open a nice can of worms regarding seeking God. WE know from other passages in Scripture that no one seeks after God without God first doing a work in their hearts, but that is a point for another post.

How do we seek the Lord? One might seek the Lord through prayer. One might seek the Lord through sincere participation in acts of worship. But I believe we know enough to recognize that, in a biblically sound church, we understand that seekers of God are those who look for the ways and will of the Lord in his holy and inspired word. (Note: My argument here hangs on an acceptance of the fact that the way to seek the Lord and to know the Lord is through his word. I’ll not take the time here to prove that this is the case.)

Thus, we see that we have a comparison between those who cannot grasp justice and those who understand it fully. The difference in those groups is a difference of either being evil or seeking God. And if we accept that seeking God is something we do through the word of God, then we must understand that having a grasp of justice, true justice, God-pleasing justice, non-evil justice, is only available to the one who seeks for justice in the seeking of God through his holy word.

In this understanding is a warning for many modern believers. Many today are seeking for justice in people’s expressions of their experiences. Others are seeking for justice in the embrace of critical theory with all of its rejections of biblical standards. Many are claiming that the only justice they can find is the justice being sought, not by the word of God, but indeed by those who reject the standards of God at every turn.

But God’s own word and his wisdom teach us that to understand justice requires, not first a seeking of an understanding of systemic oppression or secular theories of intersectionality, but first a seeking after the Lord in his word. God has shown us who he is and what he requires. God has shown us what he proclaims to be true about every human being, every nation, every people group. And if we want to understand justice, if we want to not be counted as evil, we must seek our understanding of justice in a biblically faithful seeking of the Lord. That means we never twist Scripture to make it fit a secular theory. Nor do we read Scripture through a filter of secular ideas. Instead, we go humbly to the word, let God’s law define justice for us, and then seek with all our hearts to please the Lord revealed in that law.

We Want To Look Normal

In 1 Samuel 8, the people of Israel sin against the Lord by demanding that God give them a king. Before this time, the people had covenanted with God to be under his personal rule and protection. But as time passed, the nation began to desire a human ruler.

Samuel even warns the people that having a king will be to the people’s harm, not to their good. The king will require servants, taxes, and a military. The king will cost the people a great deal without bringing them benefits.

But here is how the people respond.

1 Samuel 8:19-20 – 19 But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. And they said, “No! But there shall be a king over us, 20 that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.”

The people demand a king, even when they know that they are violating the will of God and are asking for something that will hurt them. Why? What motivates them? They want to be like all the other nations around them.

Now, without over-interpreting this, let’s simply ask ourselves if we are susceptible to that temptation? Just watch the modern church. Isn’t it obvious? How often will modern Christians turn away from the word of God and choose a thing that God says is not his will simply so that they can be like all the people around them? How often will we do what hurts us spiritually simply to look normal to society? How often will we embrace sin, violations of Scripture, in order to have others who hate God approve of us?

Dear believers in Christ, may we learn from the mistakes of others here. May we repent and love the word of God. And may we throw off the desire to be just like all the peoples around us. Instead, may we desire nothing more than to be pleasing to our Lord, regardless of how strange that looks to the world.