Monday, July 11, 2016

A Thought for Monday 11 July 2016

“Do not fret because of the wicked; do not be envious of wrongdoers, for they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb.  Trust in The Lord and do good; so you will live in the land and enjoy security.  Take delight in The Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.  Commit your way to The Lord; trust in Him, and He will act.  He will make your vindication shine like the light, and the justice of your cause like the noonday.”  Psalm 37:1-6 NRSV

The bad news is inescapable, and we see so much of it that many wonder if there will come a time when we become desensitized to the point that we will no longer be shocked or even disheartened.  There was a time when we marveled at the “uncivilized” behavior of other nations, “third-world” countries in which anarchy reigns and no one is safe.  Now that anarchy seems to be the order of the day in our own country, we are still shocked and saddened, maybe even afraid that we cannot always know our loved ones will be safe.  There is no worse feeling than that of having virtually no control over our own lives as we order our routines in such a way as to avoid dangerous, or potentially dangerous, areas and situations only to discover there is no way we can possibly know if something as harmless as a trip to a shopping mall may turn into a disaster.

Yet the psalmist advises us not to lose our religion over it!  We are encouraged to take heart, for “the wicked will be no more; though you look diligently for their place, they will not be there” (vs 10).  This does not necessarily mean, however, that in our time evil will suddenly dissipate without our notice or some effort on our part.  I think the psalmist is suggesting that before this can take place, something else must happen first.

“Take delight in The Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart” (vs 4).  Prosperity preachers have hijacked verses such as these and twisted their meanings in such a way that rather than evil being magically removed from our lives, material wealth will be magically added to us; that the “desires of your heart” are strictly limited to big cars, fine homes, luxurious vacations, and more than enough money to enjoy all these things.  What is not mentioned by these prosperity preachers is that such things come only from hard work and diligent financial planning.  Nor do they warn us that material wealth can be as much a curse, if not more, than a blessing.  No, they seem to suggest that the more money we send them, the more magic money we can expect to receive. 

This is not at all what we are being told in this word of encouragement.  Prosperity in the Bible can in no way be construed as wealth without work.  Rather, our “prosperity” can be directly linked not only to the “delight” we find in The Lord, but what kind of “delight” we actually seek.  Do we “delight” only in the idea of more money than we can count?  Eternal salvation for ourselves?  Or can we find “delight” in the possibility of being so “transformed” as to possess the mind, the heart, the affections, the compassion, and the temperament of The Lord?  Do we “delight” in the reality of Divine Law that not only prohibits certain actions but actually encourages other actions in which we look out for one another?  Do we find “delight” in the idea that we are not encouraged at all to “look after #1”?

The safety and security of The Lord’s people are, I think, directly linked to what kind of God we think we serve, what kind of prosperity is offered, and what sort of delight we may find … on HIS terms rather than our own.  The promises of Scripture are sure and certain, but there are conditions in spite of what “cheap grace” theology may suggest.  It is not a matter of simple obedience with no thought as to why obedience is even important.  Rather, we must learn to find “delight” in our obedience to The Lord, learn to fully trust that He is actually eager to show us the more excellent way!  For this to be possible, however, we must be willing to trust The Lord enough to follow Him, literally and metaphorically.  Only then will we find the “delight” offered.  Only then will “the meek inherit the land, and find delight in abundant prosperity” (vs 11).    

The Lord is great, is He not? 


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