I also have a general blog.
Saturday, July 30, 2011
S: John 1:1-8 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
O: Jesus said that we are the light and salt of the world. Using a slightly different metaphor, John was inspired by God to say that we are not the light but we bear witness of the Light -- Jesus.
A modern metaphorical way of putting it is that Jesus is the light, and we are the fibre optics that convey that light into places that need it.
A: Jesus called us to be His disciples, His witnesses, His ambassadors. Most Malaysians have not read the Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, so we are the only Gospel account they will see.
What do our friends see as the Gospel according to Andrew, Juliane, Ji Jian, Phui Yein, Teressa, Ricky, Yvonne, and Ian?
P: Father, help me reflect the light of Jesus accurately. In all that I do, help me to make my choices according to what Jesus would want me to do. In Jesus' name, amen.
Friday, July 29, 2011
S: Isaiah 58:3-10
‘We have fasted before you!’ they say.
‘Why aren’t you impressed?
We have been very hard on ourselves,
and you don’t even notice it!’
“I will tell you why!” I respond.
“It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves.
Even while you fast,
you keep oppressing your workers.
What good is fasting
when you keep on fighting and quarrelling?
This kind of fasting
will never get you anywhere with me.
You humble yourselves
by going through the motions of penance,
bowing your heads
like reeds bending in the wind.
You dress in burlap
and cover yourselves with ashes.
Is this what you call fasting?
Do you really think this will please the Lord?
“No, this is the kind of fasting I want:
Free those who are wrongly imprisoned;
lighten the burden of those who work for you.
Let the oppressed go free,
and remove the chains that bind people.
Share your food with the hungry,
and give shelter to the homeless.
Give clothes to those who need them,
and do not hide from relatives who need your help.
“Then your salvation will come like the dawn,
and your wounds will quickly heal.
Your godliness will lead you forward,
and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind.
Then when you call, the Lord will answer.
‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.
“Remove the heavy yoke of oppression.
Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumours!
Feed the hungry,
and help those in trouble.
Then your light will shine out from the darkness,
and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.
O: Is this timely or what? The majority of Malaysians are preparing to start fasting (Ramadan for the Muslims, and the 40-day fast leading up to Malaysia day for the Christians) and the Life Journal guy had us read this passage revealed by God to the Prophet Isaiah so many centuries ago! The reading plan I am following was made up by an American, who doesn't know about our Malaysian fasting schedule!
A: It's been observed that fasting without prayer is just dieting. The Church of Jesus Christ has had a long history and tradition of social work. My church has a work among the urban poor in Kinrara, and many other churches also have various kinds of ways to share our food with the hungry, give shelter to the homeless, and give clothes to those who need them.
But what about freeing those who are wrongly imprisoned? I have a couple of friends who have been urging me and other people to attend the candlelight vigils for the EO6 -- the 6 people arrested using the Emergency Ordinance which allows for detention without trial before the BERSIH 2.0 rally, including the PSM member of parliament Dr. Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj. I've thus far not been able to go because of logistical problems -- and tonight I will probably not be able to go again because although we don't have CG tonight, Juliane, Joni and Hannah are sick.
The first 21 days of the peaceful candlelight vigils outside Bukit Aman police headquarters, the police allowed them to do it. But as of last Sunday, they have received orders from above to break it up. Since then, the vigil has been going from one location to another every night. They are frequently threatened by the police now, in spite of the Malaysian constitution guaranteeing the right of citizens to peacefully protest. That right has been ignored by the ruling party for a long time.
Just as I struggled with whether to go for the BERSIH 2.0 rally itself a few weeks ago, I'm now struggling whether to go for the candlelight vigils for the EO6 -- and my responsibilities to my family. I am one of the thousands who have signed the petition to ask for their release, but likely that petition will be ignored by the authorities.
P: Father, give me wisdom what You want me to do. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Well, what do you know? I wrote this in the morning of 29 July 2011 and at 5:30pm, the 6 people had been released! Praise God! It just became too politically costly to keep them locked up, as nobody believed that they were Communists as originally alleged.
Thursday, July 28, 2011
S: Isaiah 54:1,5 Sing, O barren woman, you who have never given birth! Break into loud and joyful song, O Jerusalem, you who have never been in labour. For the desolate woman now has more children than the woman who lives with her husband,” says the LORD. ... For your Creator will be your husband; the LORD of Heaven’s Armies is his name! He is your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, the God of all the earth.
O: In the ancient world, a barren woman was considered a disgrace, cursed by God. This passage was specifically referring to Israel, I think, but also can apply in the modern context to a person like my dear friend Annette Arulrajah. She is a truly inspirational person.
She's probably in her late 40s or early 50s by now, and she had never married, but she has served the Lord faithfully many years. She was on staff with the Fellowship of Evangelical Students in Malaysia, ending as the general secretary. She's recently moved on to the international parent body IFES. She's influenced countless thousands of students to follow Jesus, and is today in Poland with the IFES World Assembly. Recently, she braved the tear gas and acid water canons to fight for democracy in Malaysia. Dr. Loh Kim Cheng is another similar lady and there are many others.
They have no physical children... but their spiritual children are myriad.
A: I am married to a lovely wife and have 2 beautiful children. But God calls all of us -- married or single -- who follow Him to make disciples of all nations.
I'm not a very good evangelist, but one of my greatest pleasures is to have an old friend find me on the net after many years and say, "Hey, remember when you used to share the Gospel with me years ago? Guess what? I'm a believer now."
Let us keep on being fishers of men! Let us keep on encouraging one another to love and good deeds!
P: Father, thank You for Your great salvation. I pray that I will be like the barren woman with many children, in addition to my physical children. In Jesus' name, amen.
S: Isaiah 53:3-12 He was despised and rejected—
a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.
We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.
He was despised, and we did not care.
Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;
it was our sorrows that weighed him down.
And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God,
a punishment for his own sins!
But he was pierced for our rebellion,
crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed.
All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him
the sins of us all.
He was oppressed and treated harshly,
yet he never said a word.
He was led like a lamb to the slaughter.
And as a sheep is silent before the shearers,
he did not open his mouth.
he was led away.
No one cared that he died without descendants,
that his life was cut short in midstream.
But he was struck down
for the rebellion of my people.
He had done no wrong
and had never deceived anyone.
But he was buried like a criminal;
he was put in a rich man’s grave.
But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him
and cause him grief.
Yet when his life is made an offering for sin,
he will have many descendants.
He will enjoy a long life,
and the Lord’s good plan will prosper in his hands.
When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish,
he will be satisfied.
And because of his experience,
my righteous servant will make it possible
for many to be counted righteous,
for he will bear all their sins.
I will give him the honours of a victorious soldier,
because he exposed himself to death.
He was counted among the rebels.
He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels.
O: Isaiah had so many prophecies of Jesus, no wonder then Handel wrote his opera The Messiah he could take so much of it from Isaiah. As I have been reading these chapters in recent days, the music from that musical keeps ringing through my mind because I recognise the passages from it.
This passage shows clearly the prophecy of the Suffering Servant, a prophecy which Jesus fulfilled in detail, even to the point of being pierced and whipped and buried like a criminal, yet in a rich man's tomb.
Jesus died without fathering a single child (v. 8) but He has so many descendants (v. 10) because we are all His spiritual children.
A: Jesus died for our sins! He took our punishment! He was whipped so that we could be healed! Let us honour Him! Let us follow Him! Let us love and obey Him!
P: Father, I repent of my sins. Thank You for Your love for us, for Your great sacrifice which You predicted hundreds of years before Jesus came! Truly, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us! I love You, and I want to follow You! Amen!
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
S: 1 Peter 5:8-14 Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are. In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation. All power to him forever! Amen. I have written and sent this short letter to you with the help of Silas, whom I commend to you as a faithful brother. My purpose in writing is to encourage you and assure you that what you are experiencing is truly part of God’s grace for you. Stand firm in this grace. Your sister church here in Babylon sends you greetings, and so does my son Mark. Greet each other with a kiss of love. Peace be with all of you who are in Christ.
O: The reference to the current suffering might mean that 1 Peter was written after the commencement of Nero's Great Tribulation. The Great Fire of Rome, which Nero is suspected to have started in order to give him an excuse to rebuild Rome in his own image, was in AD 64. It was after that that Nero blamed the Christians for the fire and started the Great Tribulation. According to Wikipedia, Margherita Guarducci, who led the research leading to the rediscovery of Peter’s tomb in its last stages, concludes Peter died on 13 October AD 64 during the festivities on the occasion of the “dies imperii” of Emperor Nero. Which leaves very little time for 1 Peter and 2 Peter to be written, if 1 Peter was written after the great tribulation started. However, Guarducci could be wrong. But also, there were more minor persecutions before Nero's Great Tribulation, so perhaps Peter was referring to those.
1 Peter was written in good Greek, while 2 Peter was written in unpolished Greek. This has led to most liberal scholars concluding that 2 Peter was not written by Peter.
However, right here in verse 12 we see that Silas helped Peter with the letter. Peter was an uneducated Galilean fisherman, so it is quite natural for his Greek to be not very good. The fact that Silas helped him with the letter is probably why 1 Peter is written in good Greek -- Silas probably corrected Peter's unpolished Greek. 2 Peter, on the other hand, was written without the help of such editing -- 2 Peter concludes without any such note, unlike 1 Peter.
A: When I was a university student, my best friend had this joke statement, "Be alert! The world needs more lerts!" シ But joking aside, this is an important principle.
Whether or not we face active persecution for our faith from humans, the devil is still prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.
That's why "the price of freedom is eternal vigilance". Thomas Jefferson wrote that regarding American political freedom, but it's very applicable to us as believers living in a fallen world. I find that my flesh still desires many of the old sinful things.
For the last couple of weeks, I had been enjoying a time of less temptation, and I think I got lax. Recently, I gave in to temptation again and have had to confess and repent and get back up and follow Christ. I cannot let down my guard.
Thanks be to God His grace! "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9)
P: Father, thank You for sending Your Son to pay the price we could not pay. Help me to stay alert and watch out. In Jesus' name, amen.
Monday, July 25, 2011
S: Isaiah 44:13-20 Then the wood-carver measures a block of wood and draws a pattern on it. He works with chisel and plane and carves it into a human figure. He gives it human beauty and puts it in a little shrine. He cuts down cedars; he selects the cypress and the oak; he plants the pine in the forest to be nourished by the rain. Then he uses part of the wood to make a fire. With it he warms himself and bakes his bread. Then—yes, it’s true—he takes the rest of it and makes himself a god to worship! He makes an idol and bows down in front of it! He burns part of the tree to roast his meat and to keep himself warm. He says, “Ah, that fire feels good.” Then he takes what’s left and makes his god: a carved idol! He falls down in front of it, worshiping and praying to it. “Rescue me!” he says. “You are my god!” Such stupidity and ignorance! Their eyes are closed, and they cannot see. Their minds are shut, and they cannot think. The person who made the idol never stops to reflect, “Why, it’s just a block of wood! I burned half of it for heat and used it to bake my bread and roast my meat. How can the rest of it be a god? Should I bow down to worship a piece of wood?” The poor, deluded fool feeds on ashes. He trusts something that can’t help him at all. Yet he cannot bring himself to ask, “Is this idol that I’m holding in my hand a lie?”
O: The Bible speaks against idols many times, but never ascribes any power to them. This is a typical attitude of our scriptures towards idols -- derision at the foolishness of it.
A: As Chinese Malaysian Christians, we are often too Chinese Malaysian and import our cultural Chinese Malaysian beliefs into our Christianity. One of these beliefs is the idea that idols have powerful spirits in them. In our pre-Christian days, we think of those spirits as gods that we can propitiate to get them to help us. Now as Christians, we think of those spirits as bad and can harm us, so many Christians exhibit a near-superstitious fear of idols. But the Bible doesn't teach that at all.
The Bible does teach that there are evil spirits and that it is possible to allow them to influence us. The Bible also does teach that it is wrong to worship anything other than God. We must not worship idols, which is a violation of the first commandment and also the reason why God allowed Israel to be destroyed and taken into captivity.
For a more complete discussion of this topic, see this article from the Community Baptist Church News.
I will have no other gods before You
Only You will reign as my heart’s King
I will have no other gods before You
I will put You first in everything
With all my heart
With all my soul
With all my might
I want to love You, Lord
Amen(Sorry, I couldn't find a better rendition of this song on YouTube.)
Incidentally, Isaiah 45, right after this, has Cyrus being predicted as a messiah of God to save the Jews from their exile and return to the land of Israel and rebuild the temple of Jerusalem. This prophecy was made over a century before Cyrus was even born! This is a rare case where scriptural prophecy actually names a person in the future by name.
This is such an obvious prediction and fulfilment that non-Christian scholars these days, as well as many Christians who don't really believe in miracles, try to explain it away by saying there were 2 other people who added to the book of Isaiah. Here are some articles that discuss this matter:
- What is the Deutero-Isaiah theory? Was the Book of Isaiah was written by multiple Isaiahs?
- Cyrus the Great in Biblical Prophecy .
- The Deutero-Isaiah Hypothesis
For example, in Isaiah itself are many prophecies about Jesus. They are demonstrably written before Christ -- anti-Christian Jewish tradition, the Dead Sea Scrolls, etc. support this. They obviously refer to Christ upon hindsight -- even the crucifixion is predicted. But if you were reading Isaiah before circa AD 25, you probably wouldn't have thought that this young carpenter Jesus from Nazareth would be the predicted Messiah who would be martyred in this manner.
The Jewish leaders, the Romans, and even Satan didn't realise it or they wouldn't have gone ahead and crucified Him, hence fulfilling the prophecy.
Sunday, July 24, 2011
S: 1 Peter 3:9 Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it.
1 Peter 3:13-17 Now, who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ. Remember, it is better to suffer for doing good, if that is what God wants, than to suffer for doing wrong!
O: Peter had had already a small taste of this with the Sanhedrin, and he will have an even greater taste of it in the upcoming Great Tribulation under Nero. But by and large, he lived what he preached, and made disciples of Christ in many places, and eventually, church history tells us, in Rome.
According to church history, Peter managed to leave Rome when Nero started his persecution of Christians, but on his way out, he had a vision where he met Jesus heading into Rome. Peter asked Jesus, "Where are you going, Lord?" Jesus said, "I am going back to be crucified again", which makes Peter go back to Rome and accept martyrdom. He was crucified upside-down because he did not consider himself worthy to die in the same manner as our Lord.
Many people came to Christ because Peter and the other Christians lived out these verses. Romans seeing Christians die for their faith bravely with words that echo Jesus, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do" came to Christ in large numbers in spite of the persecution.
Eventually, Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire 3 centuries later. (This was very good for the well-being of the citizens and subjects of Rome; however, it unfortunately opened the door for corruption into the church. Based on the historical experience, I would oppose making Christianity the official religion of Malaysia because it would be bad for the church.)
By the way, there is an excellent novel that includes that scene, set just before and during the time of Nero the antichrist's Great Tribulation, called Quo Vadis. The copyright has expired, so you can download it for free -- see the links at the bottom of the Wikipeda page on this novel.
A: It's not easy to return good for evil, but Christ calls us to do so. If we do what is right and are persecuted for it, so be it.
P: Father, help me to live up to this. It's so much in my natural reactions to return evil for evil, but that's not what You called us to. In Jesus' name, amen.
Saturday, July 23, 2011
S: 1 Peter 2:9-10 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.
1 Peter 2:13-20 Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men—as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. Honour all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king. Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God.
O: Peter wrote this while living under Roman imperialism. Roman imperialism was a blend of good and bad -- the good is that they had laws and (at first) followed them, and because they were the sole superpower in the Mediterranean world, they brought a relative peace (Pax Romana) instead of the constant warring between little nations that was "normal" in the ancient world.
The bad was that they subjugated the other nations, non-Roman-citizens were second classed, and eventually the emperor became so powerful that when he went despotic, next thing you know, he burned Rome and blamed it on the Christians and started the Great Tribulation, martyring large numbers of Christians. (But that last part was still in the future at the time Peter wrote this.)
Peter points out, however, that even in such a circumstance, we are still God's chosen people. We are a royal priesthood -- not only do we exercise God's authority on earth even as we are subject to earthly authorities, but also that we are priests -- intermediaries between God and people.
So even while we submit ourselves to the earthly authorities God had allowed to rule over us, we are a holy nation superseding them. We are members of the Kingdom of Heaven and our ultimate allegiance is to Christ.
A: It is sometimes a delicate balance to be citizens of a Malaysia ruled by an ungodly government, submitting to their authority most of the time, but not when they demand going against God's higher law.
Peter himself demonstrated that balance when he said “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19-20)
P: Father, guide me as I seek to follow you faithfully as a Malaysian Christian. Sometimes it's confusing what the right thing to do as a Christian is in our current situation. Lead me in the way everlasting. In Jesus' name, amen.
Friday, July 22, 2011
S: Isaiah 36:18-20 (Sennacherib’s chief of staff says) “Don’t let Hezekiah mislead you by saying, ‘The Lord will rescue us!’ Have the gods of any other nations ever saved their people from the king of Assyria? What happened to the gods of Hamath and Arpad? And what about the gods of Sepharvaim? Did any god rescue Samaria from my power? What god of any nation has ever been able to save its people from my power? So what makes you think that the Lord can rescue Jerusalem from me?”
Isaiah 37:18-20 (Hezekiah prays) “It is true, Lord, that the kings of Assyria have destroyed all these nations. And they have thrown the gods of these nations into the fire and burned them. But of course the Assyrians could destroy them! They were not gods at all—only idols of wood and stone shaped by human hands. Now, O Lord our God, rescue us from his power; then all the kingdoms of the earth will know that you alone, O Lord, are God.”
Isaiah 37:36-38 That night the angel of the Lord went out to the Assyrian camp and killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers. When the surviving Assyrianst woke up the next morning, they found corpses everywhere. Then King Sennacherib of Assyria broke camp and returned to his own land. He went home to his capital of Nineveh and stayed there. One day while he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisroch, his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer killed him with their swords. They then escaped to the land of Ararat, and another son, Esarhaddon, became the next king of Assyria.
O: Israel had already been wiped out by the Assyrians. Now they've invaded Judah, and taken most of Judah -- the major city of Lachich had already fallen and was being used as a base for the Assyrians to attack Jerusalem. Things looked bleak -- it looked like they were doomed.
But then, Sennacherib makes the fatal mistake of comparing Yahweh to all the other gods... and he got squished. (Well, it also helped that Hezekiah was faithful to Yahweh, unlike his dad.)
A: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not depend on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5). Honestly, it's easier said than done.
And sometimes it seems like God fails us (e.g. Josiah also trusted the Lord, but he still got killed by Necho the Pharoah of Egypt. (2 Chronicles 34-35) Ok, you might argue that Josiah "did not heed the words of Necho from the mouth of God" (2 Chronicles 35:22), but didn't Sennacharib also claim that he was speaking for Yahweh? (2 Kings 18:25)
But we have to say with Job, "Though He slay me, yet I will trust Him." (Job 13:15) We have to trust God even when "God doesn't make sense". (See this article by Dr. James Dobson.)
Ultimately, we have to know that Yahweh is not just another god. A lot of people are willing to add a shrine to Jesus to their collection of gods. That's not really following Him.
P: Father, keep me faithful and trusting You, for You are the Almighty Creator of the universe who loves me. In Jesus' name, amen.
Thursday, July 21, 2011
S: 2 Kings 18:4 He removed the pagan shrines, smashed the sacred pillars, and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke up the bronze serpent that Moses had made, because the people of Israel had been offering sacrifices to it. The bronze serpent was called Nehushtan.
O: Back when the Israelites were on their exodus from Egypt to the land of Canaan, at one point, they again grumbled against Moses, and God sent fiery serpents among them to punish them. When they repented, God told Moses to make a bronze fiery serpent and put it on a pole, and everyone who was bitten by a fiery serpent could look at it and be healed. (Numbers 21:4-9).
But then centuries later, this real, genuine, and true relic became an object of idolatry. The Jews had started worshipping it instead of God! So Hezekiah, in his reforms to lead the people back to the One True God, destroyed it.
A: What in our churches, in our lives, is in danger of becoming like that? Is there anything that we're so set in our ways that when things should be changed, we resist the change, to the detriment of the Gospel?
For example, for a long time, many churches had a rule, "All women must wear dresses to church." In recent years, most churches have dropped this rule because the original purpose was lost and now it became a hindrance to welcoming modern women to the church.
I was trying to think, are there any such things in my life right now? Didn't come up with anything right this moment, but if there are, will have to ask the Lord to show me.
P: Father, are there any such "Nehushtans" in my life right now? If so, please show me and then give me the courage and wisdom to deal with them. In Jesus' name, amen.
I listen to the Focus on the Family daily podcasts, but am several months behind. So as a result, I just listened to the 7 April and 8 April podcasts last night and this morning during my commute.
These podcasts featured an interview with Rev. Timothy Keller on the topic of Examining Our Faith and it turned out to be really relevant to the above meditation, and really touched me.
In the first podcast, he talked about things that become idols in our lives as people who seek to follow Christ today -- precisely the question about Nehushtan. In the second podcast, he talked about balancing not making an idol out of our political action, and the older brother in the story of the Prodigal Son parable.
Wow, talk about relevant! Both regarding yesterday's LifeJournal as well as regarding what we face today with BERSIH etc. American Christians are also facing a government that they largely disagree with today, with Obama's promotion of homosexuality and abortion. So although Tim Keller is speaking in an American context, it's highly relevant to us as Malaysian Christians.
So I highly recommend these two podcasts:
Part 1 [Listen online][Download MP3]
Part 2 [Listen online][Download MP3]
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
S: 2 Chronicles 30:6-11 At the king’s command, runners were sent throughout Israel and Judah. They carried letters that said: “O people of Israel, return to the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel,t so that he will return to the few of us who have survived the conquest of the Assyrian kings. Do not be like your ancestors and relatives who abandoned the Lord, the God of their ancestors, and became an object of derision, as you yourselves can see. Do not be stubborn, as they were, but submit yourselves to the Lord. Come to his Temple, which he has set apart as holy forever. Worship the Lord your God so that his fierce anger will turn away from you. For if you return to the Lord, your relatives and your children will be treated mercifully by their captors, and they will be able to return to this land. For the Lord your God is gracious and merciful. If you return to him, he will not continue to turn his face from you.” The runners went from town to town throughout Ephraim and Manasseh and as far as the territory of Zebulun. But most of the people just laughed at the runners and made fun of them. However, some people from Asher, Manasseh, and Zebulun humbled themselves and went to Jerusalem. 2 Chronicles 30:17-20 Since many of the people had not purified themselves, the Levites had to slaughter their Passover lamb for them, to set them apart for the Lord. Most of those who came from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun had not purified themselves. But King Hezekiah prayed for them, and they were allowed to eat the Passover meal anyway, even though this was contrary to the requirements of the Law. For Hezekiah said, “May the Lord, who is good, pardon those who decide to follow the Lord, the God of their ancestors, even though they are not properly cleansed for the ceremony.” And the Lord listened to Hezekiah’s prayer and healed the people.
O: King Ahaz didn't follow the Lord and led Judah into apostasy.
Now, however, king Ahaz was dead and his on Hezekiah ruled in Judah. Hezekiah followed the Lord and ordered the cleansing and rededication of the Temple. Then they decided to celebrate the Passover nationally for the first time in years.
Hezekiah realized that the Chosen People weren't just those who lived in the surviving kingdom of Judah, but also those who were in Israel. So Hezekiah called all of them to come and worship the Lord in the Passover.
But many people, especially the northerners, had not celebrated the Passover in so long, they didn't know to do the purification rituals from the Law of Moses. Nonetheless, Hezekiah recognized their good intention and sincerity, so he prayed and asked God to forgive their lack, and God agreed.
A: God isn't legalistic. All of us have things that we get wrong in our practice of the faith. God wants us to worship Him in spirit and in truth.
Some Christians point out that sincerity is not sufficient -- you can be sincerely wrong. The suicide bombers are doubtless sincere -- but sincerely wrong, and they are probably burning in hell now because of that.
But the balance of that is that when people sincerely seek God, He in his mercy and grace has time and time again overlooked that and looked to their hearts, just like in this incident with the unpurified people who came to celebrate the Passover.
Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants, Evangelicals and Charismatics have various secondary points of doctrine which contradict each other. God knows who is right on which points. However, He accepts all of us who are sincerely seeking and following Him to the best of our knowledge.
So in the same way, we must be one as He and the Father are one. (John 17:21) We must not let the secondary differences break fellowship among brothers & sisters in Christ. (Romans 14)
(The balance is Galatians 4:10-11 -- see my earlier meditation on that side of the coin.)
P: Father, I pray for unity among believers regardless of denomination -- that we may be one even as the Father and the Son are one. Where I hold prejudices against fellow believers because of differences of interpretation, help me to look at them with Your eyes. In Jesus' name, amen.
Note, the phrase I used in the title, بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم (bismi-llāhi r-raḥmāni r-raḥīm -- In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful) is recited at the beginning of all suras (chapters) of the Quran except for At Tawba (The Repentance). IMHO, the grace and mercy of God is much clearer in Christianity than in Islam, especially in the New Testament, but as we can see from today's meditation, the concept is in the Old Testament as well.
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
S: 2 Chronicles 28:9-10,14 But a prophet of the Lord named Oded was there in Samaria when the army of Israel returned home. He went out to meet them and said, “The Lord, the God of your ancestors, was angry with Judah and let you defeat them. But you have gone too far, killing them without mercy, and all heaven is disturbed. And now you are planning to make slaves of these people from Judah and Jerusalem.” So the warriors released the prisoners and handed over the plunder in the sight of the leaders and all the people.
O: Israel had long gone apostate. They had one evil king after another who led them away from the Lord. The Lord sent prophet after prophet to them, but they mostly did not repent, but instead, continued in their idolatrous ways.
Nonetheless, Judah also had followed evil king Ahaz into apostasy. So the Lord allowed the Israeli army to defeat the Jews, killing 120,000 crack Jewish warriors, and carrying off 200,000 Jewish women and children with the plunder.
Yet, this did not stop Oded from standing up and saying what is right. And, surprise, surprise, the ungodly Israeli army actually listened to him and freed the 200,000 Jewish women and children instead of enslaving them!
A: I work for a company that isn't Christ-centred. Most of us are daily surrounded by people who do not take Biblical principles into account for their actions. People might not listen to us -- like they didn't listen to most of the prophets recorded in the Old Testament. But sometimes they will listen.
So we can still be salt and light in whatever environment we find ourselves in.
P: Father, give me the courage to speak up when appropriate and to be salt and light in every situation. Amen.
Monday, July 18, 2011
S: James 2:21-24 Don’t you remember that our ancestor Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” He was even called the friend of God. So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone.
O: James was contending with people who said that faith alone was sufficient for salvation. However, believing in God is not enough -- after all, even the demons believe in God!
If we truly have faith in God, it will make an impact on our actions. Faith without works is dead.
I find it very interesting that Paul used the exact same passage (Genesis 15:6) to prove that we're saved by faith! (Romans 4:1-3, Galatians 3:1-9)
This is why Martin Luther wanted to throw James out of the Bible. He thought it contradicted Paul's Sola Fide theology.
However, Paul's epistles show that Paul himself also believed that good works must be evidenced in a Christian's life, or it is not true faith, e.g. Ephesians 5:5, 2 Corinthians 5:10, 1 Corinthians 9:27, Romans 2:6-7, Galatians 6:8-9. So, Paul would not have any dispute with James' assertion that faith is proven by works. (James 2:17-18)
A: I must both have faith in Christ's atonement for my sins by His death on the cross, and follow Christ in my actions. Both faith and works are essential parts of the Christian life.
P: Our Father in heaven,
holy is Your name.
Your Kingdom come,
Your will be done,
on earth as in heaven
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are Yours.
Now and for ever. Amen
Sunday, July 17, 2011
S: James 1:19-20, 26 Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. ... If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless.
O: This is a pastoral letter from James, the brother of Jesus, who was the Bishop of Jerusalem. This was the same James who presided over the First Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15), so he was an important leader of the church at that time. In this letter, he gave a lot of advice for good Christian living.
A: I struggle with this. I in my natural self am quick-tempered and outspoken. Over the years I've improved somewhat, but I still have a ways to go in this. There is a fine line between righteous indignation, as Jesus demonstrated during the cleansing of the temple, and the human anger James talks about above, and in these days of seeing the unjust actions of the Malaysian government against BERSIH, I struggle with it even more.
Just today, as I discussed this with some friends in a coffee shop at lunch time, I started speaking louder and louder and finally stood up and gave a loud impromptu speech to the other surprised customers about the unjust actions of the Malaysian government in recent days!
But ultimately, I must remember that I belong first to the Kingdom of God and, as Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world."
As noted in my Life Journal entry from 14/7/11, we must keep in mind that God doesn't take pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their wicked ways and live.
P: Father, please help me to subject my anger to You. Help me learn to improve in my ability to bridle my tongue, and to speak a soft word and turn away wrath, even as I seek for Your Kingdom to come and Your will to be done on earth even as it is in heaven. In Jesus' name, amen.
Saturday, July 16, 2011
S: Isaiah 28:16 [KJV] Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste. [NLT] Therefore, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: “Look! I am placing a foundation stone in Jerusalem, a firm and tested stone. It is a precious cornerstone that is safe to build on. Whoever believes need never be shaken."
O: There are many messianic passages in Isaiah and other parts of the Old Testament that aren't clear until we found out about Jesus, and this is one of them. In the New Testament we read many times of the mystery revealed, e.g. Romans 16:25-26 and Ephesians 3:1-7. 1 Corinthians 2:7-8 tells us that God hid his revelations in a mystery so that the rulers of this age would not realise that by crucifying Jesus, they actually were advancing God's plans for salvation.
A: We have put our trust in the Cornerstone that God has provided, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour. Therefore, though we may pass through the valley of the shadow of death, we do not need to fear any evil; though we pass through the storm, we are safe in His care.
This doesn't mean we should be foolish, but it means we can be confident and don't have to live in fear, even in crazy circumstances. "I don't know about the tomorrow, but I know Who holds my hand."
P: Father, I lay my cares before You. I trust Your love for us. In Jesus' name, amen.
Friday, July 15, 2011
S: Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. Hebrews 12:7-8 As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all.
O: Even though we have been bought with a price, even though we have been crucified with Christ and raised with Him, we still have the temptations of the flesh with us as long as we live in this world. If we don't resist that temptation to sin, God will discipline us as a loving father disciplines his children for their own good.
A: The word "jihad" means "to strive" and many peace-loving Muslims have pointed out that "holy war" is only one possible use of the word. A major use of the word is the striving within ourselves for holiness.
That kind of jihad is not only a Muslim concept, but also a Christian one. Paul talks about the struggle of knowing what is right but having to fight his flesh from doing it in Romans 7:13-25 and to beat his body into submission to Christ 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. James 4:7 tells us to resist the devil, and 1 Corinthians 6:18 tells us to flee sexual immorality.
As some of you know, I often struggle with pornography. Sometimes I wonder why God doesn't punish me, based on Hebrews 12:7-8. Perhaps it is because I am striving against it. I still give in to temptation once in a while, but I'm not just letting it go. I am seeking accountability from brothers in Christ. I repent when I fall and get back up and turn around and follow Christ again. I do thank God that He has given me a wife who doesn't freak out about it.
So I must strive on. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. This is my personal jihad. I can do this as Christ strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13 -- hmm, is this taking the verse out of context? In context, Paul is not talking about temptation, but rather about how he can endure all sorts of hardship for the cause of Christ because Christ strengthens him.)
P: Father, when I am tempted, remind me of what Your Son has done for me. Give me the resolve to beat my body into submission to You. Help me to always resist the devil and flee sexual immorality. Thank You for the wonderful wife You have given me. I want to be able to say like Paul at the end of my life, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing." (2 Timothy 4:7-8) In Jesus' name, amen.
Thursday, July 14, 2011
S: Isaiah 19:24-25 In that day Israel will be one of three with Egypt and Assyria—a blessing in the midst of the land, whom the Lord of hosts shall bless, saying, “Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance.”
O: In the midst of Isaiah pronouncing God's judgement on the nations, suddenly we see here this passage. Two of Israel's big enemies are promised that they will turn to God and be saved, and God shall call them His people as well.
History in fact shows this to have already happened, at least to some extent. The Coptic church in Egypt and the Chaldean church in Assyria have existed since the early centuries after Christ.
A: This is a timely reminder. Even as we are busy fighting for democracy here in Malaysia, and we've witnessed the atrocities that the Malaysian government has committed on its peaceful citizens at the BERSIH 2.0 pro-democracy rally, and over 180,000 people have already petitioned for Prime Minister Najib to resign, we must keep in mind that God doesn't take pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their wicked ways and live. (Ezekiel 18:23)
I recently read the classic novel Quo Vadis: A Narrative of the Time of Nero1. One of the side stories is of this scoundrel named Chilo. He had earlier in his life betrayed a Christian named Glaucus to bandits, causing the death of his family. Chilo thought Glaucus also died, but he survived.
When, in the course of a private-investigator-type-job, Chilo had to infiltrate the Christians in Rome, to his horror, he discovered Glaucus there. He was afraid that Glaucus would expose him, so he tried to convince Ursus, a big and strong but not very smart Christian, to kill Glaucus. He told Ursus that it was a secret mission from the bishops, that Glaucus was actually an agent of Nero and was going to betray the Christians to death.
As I read that passage, I was so filled with righteous indignation at Chilo, and I wanted to see him found out and punished or killed.
Fortunately, before Ursus could carry out the deed, he found out the truth. Chilo then was afraid that the Christians would now kill him. But the attitude of the Christians was not revenge, but rather, a desire for his salvation! I was ashamed of my own reaction.
The people who are against us are not our enemies – they're the victims of our true enemy, the devil. They are people for whom Christ died.
So we need to pray for Najib, for Muhyddin, for Hishamuddin and not against them. Jesus called us to love our enemies. (Matthew 5:43-48)
P: Father, in 1 Timothy 2:1-2, You told us to pray for those in political authority. In Ezekiel, You told us that You would rather the wicked repent rather than die. Help me keep this attitude and to love them rather than to hate them, even as I oppose their evil deeds. In Jesus' name, amen.
1. Its copyright has expired, so you can download it for free here. I highly recommend this novel – it's a bit slow getting started, but gripping once underway.
S: Hebrews 10:16, 17 “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” Then he adds: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” Hebrews 10:18-22 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Hebrews 10:26-27 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Hebrews 10:31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
O: Here we have the contrast – on the one hand, we can freely enter the Holy of Holies any time, which under the Old Covenant, only the High Priest could after purifying himself, and at that, only once a year on Yom Kippur. This is because Christ's blood has purified us.
But on the other hand, it is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God if we deliberately keep on sinning.
Does this mean that if we sin again after receiving Christ, we will be doomed forever? No, there are other scriptures that make it clear that we still do sin even after receiving Christ, but that we should quickly confess and repent. E.g. 1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
A: We must live in light of what God has done for us and live pure and holy lives. We can go to God any time.
Sin is a serious matter. It is a perversion of Christian doctrine to say that since there is now grace, we can continue to sin so that grace may abound. (Romans 6:1)
So, we must strive daily to live holy lives. But if we do sin, we have an advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ the righteous (1 John 2:1). So we must quickly confess and repent and receive God's forgiveness. Our lives must be characterized by holiness, not by sin.
At the same time, we can rejoice in the intimacy we have with God because of what Jesus has done.
P: Father, I am tempted daily to sin. I come before you in the Holy of Holies to ask for your power to resist the devil and discipline my own flesh. I confess my sins to You and thank You for Your forgiveness bought by the precious blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thank you for the intimate relationship we can have with You because of Your gift. Amen.
I don't feel very SOAPy today... I am feeling too riled up from reading the nasty things that the government has already done yesterday and this morning even before the BERSIH rally has begun.
Micah 2:1-3 says:
What sorrow awaits you who lie awake at night, thinking up evil plans. You rise at dawn and hurry to carry them out, simply because you have the power to do so. When you want a piece of land, you find a way to seize it. When you want someone’s house, you take it by fraud and violence. You cheat a man of his property, stealing his family’s inheritance.
But this is what the Lord says: “I will reward your evil with evil; you won’t be able to pull your neck out of the noose. You will no longer walk around proudly, for it will be a terrible time.”
Micah 4:2 says
People from many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of Jacob’s God. There he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths.” For the Lord’s teaching will go out from Zion; his word will go out from Jerusalem.
Oh! I long for the day when Malaysia will be one of those nations.
Pray for Malaysia!
S: Jude14,15 Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”
O: Jude had been intending to write about salvation, but ended up having to write against some false teachers who had infiltrated the church. Some false teachers had been teaching licentiousness and disregarded the authority of the church leaders who taught a proper balance of grace and obedience.
Incidentally, Jude quoted a prophecy by Enoch, which is also found in the pseudoepigraphical (false authorship) Book of Enoch which dates from the 2nd century B.C. Does this mean that he Book of Enoch was inspired?
Not necessarily – firstly, was Jude quoting the Book of Enoch or did they both quote a known prophecy of Enoch?
Secondly, even if Jude quoted the Book of Enoch, it doesn't mean the Book of Enoch was inspired – after all, Paul quoted Aratus (Acts 17:28), Meander (1 Corinthians 15:33) and Epimenides (Titus 1:12) but nobody thinks that this means that those Greek philosophers were divinely inspired.
A: We must compare what we are taught with the truth of scripture. Many people have been led astray by false teachers in church, or even sincere Christians who are mistaken.
That is why it is so important for each believer to study the scripture and not rely on just what our pastors or priests tell us. Pastors and priests are just human beings – they can make mistakes, and some of them are actually deceivers.
P: Father, may I be diligent to study Your scriptures regularly so that I will know what Your Truth is. When I find a pastor teaching error, help me to be gracious in approaching them, with the right attitude, for correction and not for my own ego. In Jesus' name, amen.
S: Jonah 3:4b “In forty days, Nineveh shall be destroyed!” Jonah 3:9 “Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish?” Jonah 4:2 “Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm.”
O: God did not say that “Unless they repent, Nineveh shall be destroyed.” Yet, even the Ninevites, let alone Jonah, knew that it was implicit that repentance was possible.
That's why Jonah ran the opposite direction when God told him to proclaim that message of doom in Nineveh. He hated the Ninevites and wanted them to be destroyed rather than saved. Yet God is “One who relents from doing harm.”
A: What is our attitude towards our godless enemies? The natural thing is to want God to judge them and destroy them.
I feel that a lot when I consider the people in power who do evil things. Yet, while we were still enemies of God, God loved us and sent His Son to die for us.
He calls us to that same kind of love. Yes, we are to defend the defenseless and should oppose dictators and other people in authority who do evil.
However, God would prefer not to destroy them but to see them repent and turn to Him.
P: Father, even as I fight for democracy, truth, righteousness and good governance, help me to keep Your perspective on these corrupt government authorities – they are not our enemy, but rather victims of our Enemy, and You desire their salvation rather than destruction.
S: 2 Timothy 1:5,8 when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also. … Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God,
O: Timothy was one of the first third-generation Christians. His godly heritage was passed on to him, following the Old Testament injunctions to always teach what God had done earlier to the children. He certainly was not ashamed of the Gospel!
A: We middle-classed Chinese Malaysian Christians have so many aspirations for our children. We pray that they'll be healthy, we pray that they'll study well, we pray that they'll get good jobs, etc.
But if our children grow up to be healthy, wealthy and wise, but do not know the Lord, we have failed as Christian parents.
In an earlier meditation, I shared 'sometimes we’re too “middle classed Chinese Malaysian” and not Christian enough. At a recent Chinese New Year gathering of Christians, during the Yee Sang they were doing the traditional blessing for the children, that they may do well in school and get good jobs, etc. when I chipped in, “And that they may be sold out for Jesus and become missionaries to Africa, etc.!” and people looked at me amazed.'
The same lesson applies here – may my children grow up to be unashamed of the Gospel!
P: Father, I lift up Joni and Hannah to You – I commit them to Your work even as the Hannah in the Bible after whom my Hannah is named committed Samuel to You. May they grow up to be dynamic women of God!
S: 2 Kings 5 The story of the healing of Naaman the Syrian general's “leprosy”. (Note: this “leprosy” is a different thing from what we call “leprosy” today – see this Wikipedia entry for a fuller explanation.)
O: The Syrians had been at peace with Israel at this time, but earlier, they were at war and this little Israelite girl had been taken as booty to Syria. She probably saw her father killed and her mother and sisters taken as slaves, and her family separated. Yet, somehow, she held on to her faith, even though she was from the apostate northern kingdom.
This was evidence that even in the northern kingdom, with all its evil kings and idol worship, there were still believers. Actually, the stories of Elijah and Elisha are also proof that not everyone abandoned Yahweh and followed Jeroboam's apostasy, because in both those stories you find that there are others who remained faithful to Yahweh.
Naaman starts out arrogant, but is converted by “power evangelism”. He becomes a believer, but his place as an official of Syria means that he is forced to participate marginally in the worship of Rimmon. Elisha shows God's mercy to him and doesn't demand a legalistic adherence.
Naaman came with large amounts of gifts, but Elisha refuses them, not willing to be paid for God's miracles. But his assistant Gehazi gave in to greed, and ended up being afflicted with Naaman's former “leprosy”.
A: What a contrast between the little slave girl, Naaman, Elisha and Gehazi. May we have the faithfulness to God of the little slave girl, who ended up being instrumental in leading a great “enemy” general to the Lord, and not give in to greed like Gehazi.
Also, let us not be so focused on the legalistic prohibitions but to extend grace to new believers like Elisha towards Naaman.
P: Father, keep us from temptation, and keep us steadfast in Christ. In Jesus' name, amen.
S: Song of Songs 1:4-5,7, 12-13 Take me with you; come, let’s run! The king has brought me into his bedroom. How happy we are for you, O king. We praise your love even more than wine. How right they are to adore you. ... Tell me, my love, where are you leading your flock today? Where will you rest your sheep at noon? For why should I wander like a prostitute among your friends and their flocks? ... The king is lying on his couch, enchanted by the fragrance of my perfume. My lover is like a sachet of myrrh lying between my breasts.5:7 The night watchmen found me as they made their rounds. They beat and bruised me and stripped off my veil, those watchmen on the walls. 8:11-12 Solomon has a vineyard at Baal-hamon, which he leases out to tenant farmers. Each of them pays a thousand pieces of silver for harvesting its fruit. But my vineyard is mine to give, and Solomon need not pay a thousand pieces of silver. But I will give two hundred pieces to those who care for its vines.
O: The title, “The Song of Songs of Solomon” is intended to mean that this was the greatest song Solomon wrote. Solomon was a man who had many wives and concubines, and was unfaithful to God though God blessed him with wisdom. God had told the kings of Israel not to multiply wives (which was a common practice of pagan kings) but Solomon chose not to follow that advice, to his downfall.
Most people read the beloved/lover as Solomon, but other people think that it isn’t Solomon, but rather, a young shepherd – she asks him to tell her where he’ll rest his flocks at noon, so that she can find him and not have to wander from one flock to another in an unseemly manner looking for him. It’s unlikely that King Solomon, being raised in the royal household, would be doing the job of a shepherd (even though his father King David did – but David didn’t grow up as royalty.)
The Shulamite girl’s beauty caught Solomon’s eye and he brought her into his bedroom, but she called for her beloved to help her escape.
Even though Solomon, made fragrant by perfume, tries to woo her on his couch, the Shulamite prefers the smell of her unperfumed lover, comparing him to a sachet of myrrh lying between her breasts. (Myrrh can be used as perfume.) (I can identify with this – I love the smell of a clean Juliane with no perfume, too.シ)
I don’t know if the rape of the Shulamite by the night watchmen was part of Solomon’s attempt to get her – to show her that her shepherd boy cannot protect her like Solomon can, or to exact revenge on her for rejecting him, or if it was just an accidental incident. But nonetheless, the Shulamite doesn’t abandon her lowly shepherd boy for the king.
She knows that she’s the only girl for her shepherd boy, while the king has hundreds of other women in the palace. I am not sure if the reference to the vineyard at Baal-hamon is a reference to the many wives, or if it was another attempted enticement from Solomon for her.
In any case, she rejects Solomon with finality, saying that her one vineyard is hers to give to the one she loves, the one who cares for her.
So in the end, Solomon had to give up and the Shulamite went away with her young stag on the mountains of spices.
If this interpretation of the Song of Songs is correct, then Solomon was wise enough in the end to recognize it and write a song to commemorate where he was wrong.
A: Just as the Shulamite refused to give in to Solomon’s enticements, but stayed faithful to the one who truly loves her, we must not give in to the world’s enticements and stay faithful to the One who truly loves His Bride. We are the bride of Christ.
Another application is that as a married person, I must stay faithful to my spouse even though others may offer enticements.
May we also be like Solomon (and his father David) to recognize when we are wrong, repent, and to learn from that.
P: Father, help me to be committed to Christ and to Juliane. When I am wrong, help me to quickly repent and seek forgiveness. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
The Whole Counsel of Scripture
S: Proverbs 17:8 A bribe is like a lucky charm; whoever gives one will prosper! Proverbs 18:16: Giving a gift can open doors; it gives access to important people!
O: These are found in a bunch of good advice that Solomon had collected.
A: Look! The Bible is advocating bribery! But wait – there are lots of other passages speaking against bribery:
- Exodus 23:8 Take no bribes, for a bribe makes you ignore something that you clearly see. A bribe makes even a righteous person twist the truth.”
- Deuteronomy 16:19b Don't take money from people who want special favours. It makes those who are wise close their eyes to the truth. It twists the words of those who do what is right.
- Deuteronomy 27:25a May anyone who accepts money to kill someone who isn't guilty of doing anything wrong be under the Lord's curse.
- 1 Samuel 8:3b They accepted money from people who wanted special favors. They made things that were wrong appear to be right.
- 2 Chronicles 19:7 Now therefore, let the fear of the LORD be upon you; take care and do it, for there is no iniquity with the LORD our God, no partiality, nor taking of bribes.”
- Psalm 15:5 He who does not put out his money at usury, nor does he take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved.
P: Father, help us persevere in studying your Word. Strengthen us when we grow weary, and renew our strength as eagles as we wait on You.
No real SOAP today -- I'm not sure how to apply this, but today's reading included 2 Samuel 21:1-14, and the part of about how God seemed to be satisfied with the killing of the 7 sons of Saul always bothered me. How could justice be served by executing 7 innocent men for the crime of their father?
Then I came across this meditation by Susan McGeown. She says:
By the way, while googling on this topic, I found this meditation on this chapter by Bob Deffinbaugh which is pretty good reading.
S: 2 Samuel 8:2a David also conquered the land of Moab. He made the people lie down on the ground in a row, and he measured them off in groups with a length of rope. He measured off two groups to be executed for every one group to be spared. 1 Chronicles 22:8 “But the Lord said to me, ‘You have killed many men in the battles you have fought. And since you have shed so much blood in my sight, you will not be the one to build a Temple to honour my name.” 2 Samuel 11:1-12:24 (David’s murder of Uriah after his adultery with Bathsheba.)
O: David did some things in war that we would consider war crimes or atrocities today. However, by the standards of his day, even this killing of two thirds of the fighting men prisoners of war of Moab was milder than what was normally practiced – very often, they would kill all the men and take the women and children as slaves, thus wiping out the family names of that entire community. So what David did was “milder” in that he left one third of the family lines alive.
So God did not hold David accountable for those “war crimes”. There was a consequence – since God knows what is ultimately good and right to do – that God didn’t allow David to build the Temple because of the excessive blood on his hands – but God never reprimanded David for those killings that David did not know was wrong.
The situation with Bathsheba and Uriah was completely different – God reprimanded David severely for that, and even after his repentance, there were serious consequences. One man’s murder, as opposed to thousands of prisoners of war executed, and it was so severe? Because David knew full well that it was wrong for him to murder Uriah and steal his wife, but David didn’t know that it was wrong to kill prisoners of war.
A: We don’t have to worry so much about what we might be doing wrong that we don’t know about, but we are responsible for what we do know.
So we must obey God in the things we do know. In time, He may teach us new things as He brings us towards perfection – but we don’t have to worry ahead of time for what we don’t know.
P: Father, remind me of what happened to David with Uriah and Bathsheba when I am tempted to sin. I must obey You in the things You have already taught me. I confess my sins to You and ask for Your forgiveness. Thank You for Jesus’ death on the cross to pay for my sins. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
S: Matthew 17:27 However, we don’t want to offend them, so go down to the lake and throw in a line. Open the mouth of the first fish you catch, and you will find a large silver coin. Take it and pay the tax for both of us.
O: Jesus had just been challenged on whether they should pay the Temple Tax or not. Jesus asserted that as the citizens of God’s Kingdom, they didn’t have to pay the Temple Tax, but nonetheless, he didn’t want to needlessly offend people.
A: There are many things that we don’t have to do legalistically as Christians, but sometimes, it’s better for the sake of the Gospel to go ahead and comply.
As believers, we are often enjoined not to accommodate the world in terms of morality. However, there is another form of accommodating the world that is OK, and in fact, beneficial: when it is not a sin to do that thing and it’ll make the non-Christians have one less excuse for objection.
We need wisdom in these matters, for the situation is often not black-and-white. Here is an example from my own experience:
When I was an international student at an American state university, the international student division had organised an orientation exercise for new international students. They also allowed student organisations with some kind of emphasis on international students, e.g. the Malaysian Student Society, to set up booths.
I was involved in a Christian ministry to International students called International Friends, and we also applied to set up a booth. However, we were denied because we were a religious group.
I wanted to call one of the Christian legal defence groups to help us fight this, because I knew that it was unconstitutional for the state to do viewpoint discrimination like that.
However, the staff worker leaders of the group felt that since we had a good working relationship with the university administration and they allowed us to evangelise almost without restrictions on campus and book rooms, etc. and we had lots of opportunities outside of this event to reach out to the new international students, we should not press this issue and jeopardise that – we would have a better chance for witness on campus long-term.
In a slightly different scenario, it may well have been the right thing to fight the university legally, in order to not allow incremental gradual encroachment of the rights of Christians. That’s why this is a matter of wisdom and not black-and-white rules.
P: Father, give us wisdom when we are challenged by non-Christians. You know what the right thing to do in each situation, even when we are unclear. So please lead and guide us.
I don't need your money, I want your life.
And I hear you say that I'm coming back soon,
But you act like I'll never return.
How you thrive on milk, but reject my meat,
And I can't help weeping of how it will be,
If you keep on ignoring my words.
But your flesh is something I just can't feed.
I want more than Sunday and Wednesday nights,
Cause if you can't come to me every day,
Then don't bother coming at all.
I want hearts of fire, not your prayers of ice.
And I'm coming quickly, to give back to you,
According to what you have done.
S: Judges 16:20b But he didn’t realize that the Lord had left him.
O: Samson was the second last of the judges of Israel – the last judge wasn’t listed in the book of Judges but rather in the book of Samuel – it was Samuel. This was the period of theocracy in Israel – where they didn’t have a king but instead, God would raise up people to lead as necessary.
Throughout the book of Judges, the people of Israel would fall away from Yahweh and then they would be subjugated by other peoples, then they would repent and call out to God and God would send a judge to rescue them.
A: My children love the Fabulous Bentley Brothers song on the Judges (well, they love all the Bentley Brothers songs ジ) (Youtube) As a result, I have pretty much memorized the names of the judges, and it was interesting these last few days reading Judges again for the first time since I learned this song, because I knew all those names!
The last lines of the song, says “And most famous of them all, that bonehead dude named Samson! He was strong! Until he got a haircut...”
Samson had such an auspicious beginning, with the announcement by the Angel of the Lord to his parents. But in spite of God’s gift of the Holy Spirit and anointing, he kept giving in to his lust, chasing after unbelieving women. The first one recorded was the girl from Timnah. Then the prostitute from Gaza. But still Samson didn’t repent. Finally, Delilah of Sorek did him in. God gave him chance after chance, until he finally the Lord left him! And he didn’t realize it!
But even that wasn’t the end. He finally repented after he had been blinded and enslaved, and God allowed him to have one final victory.
My first reaction was, “The Bentley Brothers’ assessment was right! He was a bonehead!” But you know, upon reflection, aren’t I like that? Time and time again, I give in to temptations that I know are wrong. Aren’t I being a bonehead?
Thank God for His forgiveness when I repent! But I must beware that I don’t end up “blinded and enslaved” like “that bonehead dude named Samson.”
P: Father, thank You for forgiving me every time I repent. I pray that I will not test you like Samson did and end up “blinded and enslaved.” In Jesus’ name, Amen!