Placing our Hope in God Alone

“The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength. The war horse is a false hope for salvation,
and by its great might it cannot rescue.” Ps 33:16-17

A few years ago I had the opportunity to walk through the National Museum of the US Air Force in Dayton, OH. Moving from one hangar to the next I saw the evolution of aircraft from the Wright brother’s first plane to the modern surveillance drones of today.

It isn’t hard to be in a place like that and not have an overwhelming sense of patriotism as I see the military defense weapons and aircraft that our nation has used in the defense of our country and many other countries all around the world. Seeing these beautiful machines and their sheer size made me feel a little sorry for anyone that stood against them in a battle.

It makes me think about how Pharaoh felt about his horses and chariots, and the king of Babylon about his weapons of war. The same can be said about the Medo-Persians, Greeks, and Romans at different parts of world history. Whether the weapons are spears, swords, arrows, or chariots, tanks, and airplanes, our hearts can become fooled into thinking that it is the weapon and strategies that win the war. Sometimes we think we can simply outnumber the enemy with more soldiers, more money, more missiles, and more technologies. This is heady stuff and it can divert the attention of a nation away from their inherent weakness and need for God.

In Psalm 33, the unnamed psalmist recognized this prideful blindspot and seeks to refocus the attention of the worshippers of Yahweh. The king, he writes, is not saved by his army-no matter how great. A read through the Chronicles and any history book will give credence to this reality. Kings are overthrown, betrayed, killed in battle, poisoned, and even killed by their own sons in a grab of power. King David himself survived an attempted coup by his own son. Some rulers are better than others, but no ruler can exist without God’s help. The Lord puts the man on the throne or behind the desk, but it is God alone who keeps him there, and it is God who removes him.

The psalmist also recognized that the same is true about those warriors that seem unbeatable in battle. We laud those warriors that fight valiantly and bring to our nation victory over the enemy. Stories are told of campaigns where all hope was lost and then the hero emerged and snatched victory out of the jaws of defeat. But even the greatest hero among our warriors should not be hoped upon more than our God. Do not forget men like the mighty Goliath who boasted in his mighty size and ability to defeat Israel, even defying the Lord with mockery. That warrior’s great strength could not deliver him when a boy with a sling brought him to his death on the battlefield.

The warhorse was a great advantage to any ancient kingdom that sought to be a military powerhouse. The war horse was large, brave, and strong. He could charge into a mob of warriors with courage and bowl over those in his path, allowing his rider to swing his longsword or thrust his spear into the melee while remaining out of reach by the foot soldier. Any army that had a cavalry was an almost unstoppable force. Almost.

Knowing the confidence that men put in warhorses, he commanded that the kings of Israel were not to amass large numbers of them knowing that it would easily allow the king to seek confidence in his cavalry and not place his trust in the Lord. In modern weaponry, confidence is placed in ships, drones, fighter jets, missiles, and many other weapons that can unleash “shock and awe” in our enemies.

The writer of Psalm 33:16-17 should be heard. Anything we place our confidence in outside of God can and will fail. It is inevitable. As a matter of fact, it is worse than failure. These things that we place above our trust in God are an affront to Him, and they will not only fail but they will also be brought low as they have become a challenge to God for supremacy in our hearts. He will not allow anything else in His place.

We Will Not Be Silent and We Will Not Bow Down

“In a time of universal deception, telling the truth is a revolutionary act. Let us determine that we will not be shamed into silence or inaction. We will speak, and like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the book of Daniel, let us resolve that we will not bow.”

Erwin Lutzer, We Will Not Be Silenced, 38.

It is interesting to read about the Apostle Paul’s experience in Jerusalem in Acts 21-26. In these chapters, Paul is constantly allowed to share with different audiences his testimony in one way or another. Incredibly, in many instances, he isn’t allowed to finish his explanation of why he believes in Jesus Christ.

At first, Paul is seized while worshipping in the temple and dragged outside of the temple grounds so he can be stoned to death. By the providence of God, he is rescued by Roman soldiers whom he asks for permission to speak to the angry mob because they don’t seem to agree about why they want to kill him. But before Paul finishes his explanation, the crowd erupts in rage and he is once again needing to be rescued by the Roman soldiers and carried away to safety.

Again and again, Paul speaks: to the Sanhedrin, to Felix the Governor, before Felix’s wife Drusilla. Following Felix, Paul was allowed to speak to the incoming Governor Festus, and in frustration and to seek justice, he finally appealed to Caesar himself.

In each of these interactions, Paul spoke the truth—whether about his beliefs, his experiences, the deception of his enemies, or the truth of the gospel message and Jesus Christ. And in each opportunity, he found that most of those that called him to speak the truth were not actually interested in hearing the truth. And he also found that when he spoke the truth, those who claimed to want to hear the truth did not actually want the truth spoken. Many responded with violence and murder.

Dear Christian, do you not see that this attitude is similar to the one we face in our world today, and it is growing stronger? Many people speak about wanting the truth—but they do not want it when we speak it. Some want a version of the truth that suits them and their version of reality. Some truly want to hear it but are seriously disappointed that it is not what they had hoped. Some respond with calls to silence the truth and truth-speakers.

But like Paul, we cannot be silent. And like Jeremiah before him, we must say, “If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot” Jeremiah 20:9.

In today’s world, telling the truth is a revolutionary act. May we speak the truth no matter what. Don’t forget that we are a city on a hill whose light cannot be hidden.

Rejoicing After God’s Discipline

I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up and have not let my foes rejoice over me. O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit. Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name. For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” (Psalm 30:1–5, ESV)

Beautiful sculptures like Michelangelo’s “David” or “Pieta” which look like living marble. When asked how he did it, said that he simply chiseled away everything that didn’t look like David.

Similarly, God is at work in us, chiseling away everything that is not part of his desire for us to look and act like children of God. 

And as living pieces of God’s work, it is painful when the hammer and chisel of God remove the rough edges and carve out of hardened marble a beautiful masterpiece. But it is necessary in order to make us beautiful, so that the Master Artist’s skill and grace can be put on display through us.

The reason for David needing to be rescued from his foes, being the Lord’s “drawing up” in Psalm 30:1 is unclear, but it seems to correspond to a time in David’s life when he was very near to death (see also Pss. 71:20; 130:1), and quite possibly because of some sin in his life since he speaks about the Lord’s anger being only momentary. Like water drawn out of a deep dark well, so the Lord has lifted David out of a deep hole when he faced a severe trial, which was possibly self-inflicted through his own sin.

Because of these problems David faced, he knew that his enemies would gloat over the illness that he faced (see also Ps. 35:19, 24-27). David says that it was the Lord that healed him in response to his cries for help. His sickness was so severe that he feared that he surely would face death (Sheol). In death, the Lord would have been delivering divine justice upon David, but instead he received mercy and grace.

The New Testament reminds us that God is serious about sin in his children. He sometimes acts against those who have been unrepentant and have brought about shame to the name of Christ. It is true that there is no more condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, but that does not mean that the Lord does not bring about temporal consequences for our sin that might be used as a means to our sanctification. In this psalms we can see that very effect whereby David learned in a deeper way of the love and care of the Lord.

Not only did David praise God for saving him, but he used the opportunity to encourage others to praise God also. David learned that with the Lord, forgiveness comes along with the chastening; and with our weeping comes a joy that our Father had never stopped loving us.

The hymn “Amazing Grace” closes with the lines, “When we’ve been there ten thousand years, Bright shining as the sun, We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise Than when we first begun.” Our days in heaven will be filled with praise because our Savior is worthy, and because we will more clearly see how much we do not deserve the “amazing grace” that has been bestowed upon all of God’s children. So remember the next time you face the chastening hand of God and come out of it with a heart filled with praise for the lessons God has taught you about who He is, and who we are.

The Rage Against Truth (weekend repost)

As Paul proclaimed the gospel in Ephesus, the effects trickled down, affecting the very livelihood of those involved in the idol-makers guild. The testimony of Paul is clear, even when spoken from the lips of the pagan silversmith Demetrius–“gods made with hands are not gods.”

As he gathered the guildsmen to refute this challenge to their trades, Demetrius could have sought to put together a powerful rebuttal against Paul’s accusation. He could have challenged Paul to a debate, or showed where Paul’s reasoning went off track. He could have pointed out inconsistencies that he saw in Paul’s arguments against the practice of Diana worship, but he did none of these things.

Read the rest of this post here: The Rage Against Truth

7 Reasons Why You Should Study and Teach Biblical Eschatology (weekend repost)

Various views of end times events have caused division, confusion, and frustration for many Christians. It isn’t hard for a person that wants to downplay the importance of eschatology to point out extreme examples of each view in order to demonstrate that the effort is fruitless. Some have jokingly called themselves “pan-millennialists” saying that it will all pan-out in the end.

However, complexity, alternate views, and even wacky ideas among some teachers should not be enough for us to put off the study of end times. Read the rest of this post: 7 Reasons Why You Should Study and Teach Biblical Eschatology