Trials and Temptations

“…the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from temptations…” (2 Peter 2:9, NASB)

I hadn’t ever heard it put that way before. I could use a God like that because, frankly, I can’t rescue myself from temptations.

I know me. I know my flesh. I know the allure temptations have. I know my propensity to sin and my weak will to resist sin. I know my success rate at rescuing myself from temptations is embarrassingly low (like, 0%).

Because I know these things, I also know that any time I ever successfully resist temptation, it is only because the Lord enables me to do so. And He only enables me to do so because He is gracious.

There is nothing good in me. But out of His perfect love, He gives me the desire to obey Him (I can’t even muster that up myself…) and then empowers me to do so.

I pulled up the verse in the NIV and ESV and it read, “…the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials…”

What’s the difference between temptations and trials?

I’m not sure this is right, but here’s an idea I’ll lob out there for our consideration.

I think temptations are bad things we have a choice to be a part of or not. And trials are bad things we find ourselves in whether we want to be there or not. 

In other words, we (our sinful natures) happen to temptations, and trials happen to us.

For example, when we feel the pull to boast about something, that is a temptation. Our sinful natures take over and taint an otherwise good thing. Being successful at righteous things is an inherently good thing. But when we toot our own horns for the purpose of manipulating others to praise us or envy us, we mar that which was good. Excessive pride is a bad thing we choose to be a part of; it happens because of us.

On the other hand, when you’re laid off because your company is down-sizing, that is a trial. Assuming you are a good employee, you did nothing to warrant the lay off. No one asked you if you’d mind losing your job; they just took it from you. Nothing you could have done or not done would’ve changed the fact that you are now unemployed. Being laid off is a bad thing none of would choose; it happens to us.

So when the NASB says God knows how to rescue us from temptations, I think it is saying God knows how to help us not do stupid things. And He will, if we ask Him to… (That’s the catch, isn’t it? Too often we don’t ask Him and just go forth in our own stupidity and sin…probably because we don’t really want to overcome temptation in the first place.)

And when the NIV and ESV say God knows how to rescue us from trials, I think they are saying God knows how to help us through and out of tough circumstances we didn’t bring on ourselves.

In both cases, I am glad God has the necessary knowledge to help me out. I am also glad He is willing to help me if I want Him to. He is not not in control. He will act on His knowledge when the time is right. That brings me peace.

“…the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from temptations and trials…”

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Cheap Grace

I started reading a Bonhoeffer book last week. He wrote it in the 1930’s, but it reads as if he wrote it yesterday.

Is the price that we are paying today with the collapse of organized churches anything else but an inevitable consequence of grace acquired too cheaply? We gave away preaching and sacraments cheaply; we performed baptisms and confirmations; we absolved an entire people, unquestioned and unconditionally; out of human love we handed over what was holy to the scornful and unbelievers. We poured out rivers of grace without end, but the call to rigorously follow Christ was seldom heard.

Bonhoeffer coined the term “cheap grace”. When we share with others that Jesus died on the cross for them and “all they have to do” to get to heaven is accept that, we are setting them up for the biggest fall of their lives (perhaps of their eternities as well). We tell people they just need to check that belief box, and then they can go about their way, living however they want to because all is covered by grace.

But that’s not the message of the Bible.

Belief in Jesus without repentance (defined as being truly contrite and resolving to do the opposite of the wrong you have been doing through the power of the Holy Spirit) is not true recognition of the depth of one’s sinfulness, of the holiness God requires of us, and of one’s need for Christ’s substitutionary death.

When we limit our sharing about Jesus with others – whether individually or from the pulpit – to “cheap grace”, we are only telling one half of the story. Yes, Jesus died to save us, and, yes, there is not one “good work” we can or need to do in order to be saved. But the grace God offers us through the killing of His Son is not cheap at all. As Bonhoeffer says, it is costly grace.

God’s extension of grace to us cost Him His Son. Go back and watch Jesus be beaten to a pulp and crucified in The Passion of the Christ. Not easy to watch for us; how much harder for Jesus’ Dad?

And the Christianity to which Jesus calls us is not cheap either. Go back and read Jesus’ commands to the disciples to give up everything and follow Him (Matthew 4:18-22); to hate their families in comparison to how much they loved Him (Luke 14:26); to die to themselves (Luke 9:23-24). If they wanted to be saved by grace, not having to do anything to earn salvation except believe the Gospel (Ephesians 2:8-9), the disciples would have to do it on Jesus’ terms. And His terms were/are, “accept Me as your Lord and Savior”.

When we offer people cheap grace, we erase “Lord” from Jesus’ terms. We shout Savior, but we don’t even whisper Lord. And that’s not biblical. People think they are becoming Christians because that go-to-Heaven-without-doing-anything deal sounds pretty good to them. But they aren’t surrendering any part of their lives, much less all of their lives to Jesus. They aren’t making Him their Boss. Cheap grace.

So our churches fill up with people who are fat on cheap grace and have never even heard of costly grace, if they attend church at all. The Christians who shared the gospel with them are to blame. And the pastors and Bible teachers they sit under are to blame. Our congregations swell with people who don’t live like Christians because they haven’t been taught the full picture of what it means to follow Christ. They prayed a prayer for cheap grace and think that’ll do. They go to church because it makes them feel good and/or just in case there was some fine print on that cheap grace that says they really DO need to attend church in order to get into Heaven. But after awhile, they don’t really see the point of attending church… they are confident they have their Get Out of Hell Free card, and sleeping in on Sunday mornings or going to brunch early to beat the church crowds is much more appealing. They stop attending altogether, only to be replaced by other people who have bought cheap grace. And on and on the cycle goes.

[Note: many people who accept cheap grace sincerely understand their need for a Savior and believe that Christ is the only Savior who will do. If this is the case, hear me: I believe they are just as saved as people who understand grace is costly. The difference that burdens me is not necessarily their eternal destinies being different. What burdens me is that when people stop at cheap grace and never come to understand costly grace – when they never move beyond belief in Christ to actually following Christ – THEY MISS OUT! They miss out on having a relationship with God that is more intimate than any relationship they have with a human. They miss out on being set free from sin patterns that hurt them and their loved ones. They miss out on being a part of the miraculous, powerful things the Lord is doing all around them. Cheap grace robs them of the life God has for them now.]

As I continued to reflect on what I was reading in the Bonhoeffer book, the Spirit politely insisted I take a look at myself.

I began to wonder if I am guilty of preaching cheap grace to people. I tell people about Christ every week. I share the Gospel. But have I shared cheap grace to the neglect of costly grace? Do I make it a point to emphasize to seekers that their decision to accept Christ as Savior must also include accepting Him as Lord? Boss? Master? I also teach Christians the Bible every week. But have I really been teaching believers cheap grace to the exclusion of costly grace? Am I too quick to offer grace when believers really ought to be challenged to follow after Jesus more completely?

Last week I read this:

Costly Grace

What is our Christianity costing us, really? If we are not committed to doing whatever He wants however He wants whenever He wants no matter what, we need to seriously consider whether we’ve been sold cheap grace. If our being a Christian isn’t costing us anything – everything – we don’t understand what being a Christian really is. The good news is Jesus wants to lovingly teach us.

Are you willing to be taught? 

The One Thing We Can’t Lose

My heart fell as I watched this pastor whom I’ve never heard preach, whom I’ve never met personally, whose books I’ve never read, and whose church I’ve never set foot in tearfully apologize to his congregation for, in his own words, choices he has made that were “wrong”.

Yes, his humility struck me. In this day and age, our ministry leaders are quick to offer excuses and self defenses, but not public apologies, and certainly not recorded public apologies for the entire world to watch.

But his humility is not what spoke to me most.

I found myself tearing up when Mark Driscoll teared up during his statement, not because I in any way have an affection for or a connection to him, but because I can identify with the truth represented in his statements about both his failures and the immeasurable grace and forgiveness of Christ.

The truth is we are ALL one choice away from losing our families and our ministries (no matter how small or large), but we can NEVER make a choice that will cost us our Jesus.

I think Mark’s tears were indicative that he gets this at the most personal level possible. I get it, too, and it a) scares me to death that I am FULLY capable of making one choice that could cost me my family and ministry, and b) humbly thankful that I can never make a choice that would ever cost me EVERYTHING – nothing I do will ever make me lose Jesus.

So I am wondering, how do I – how do we – balance this fear that comes from an acute awareness of our own propensity to sin with the promise that Jesus will not leave us (Matthew 28:20)? 

We don’t want to be paralyzed by the fear. Yes, our ability to sin and to sin in extremely destructive ways faster than we can blink should be a reality that is always in the forefronts of our minds. Foolish is the person who believes he would never do ______. We must have a healthy respect for the fallen nature that still roars its ugly head in each one of us every day of our lives.

But we must guard against the temptation to condemn ourselves for having this nature and operating out of it from time to time. I’m NOT saying sin is okay. I’m saying self-condemnation – punishing ourselves mentally or otherwise – over our sin is not okay.

God is the only one in position to condemn us for our sin, and if you’ve accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, God has decided NOT to condemn you. That’s His choice, as laid out in the well-known verse “…there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” (Romans 8:1). And if God isn’t condemning you, then you shouldn’t be either. (Confess and repent, yes, but condemn, no.)

And why must we not condemn ourselves? Because when we sit around thinking about how much we suck on account of our sinful choices/nature, we are effectively paralyzed. Our focus is no longer on going and making disciples (ya know, our main job on this planet) nor on loving and worshiping the Lord (ya know, the very thing our hearts were created for). The focus is on ourselves.

No, instead of living in the paralysis that can come along with our understanding of our abilities to sin, we must balance ourselves out with the second truth: we can never sin to such a degree nor too many times to cause Jesus to give up on us. That’s grace, folks. We can’t out sin God’s grace. Once we’ve accepted Christ, He’ll never reject us. He is the one thing we can’t lose.

When we’re feeling the weight of our bent to sin and are tempted to kick ourselves, maybe we ought to pray something like this:

“Lord, I know at any given moment I am capable of great sin. Protect me from making choices that dishonor you and hurt me and the people I love. Empower me to never make choices that could cost me my family or the ministry you’ve entrusted to me. And thank You, Lord, that, although there are choices I could make that might cost me everything tangible in this life, there is no choice I could make that could cost me You. Thank you that you will never leave me but are with me always, even until the end of the age. Help me walk in that confidence instead of sit in the self condemnation that comes so easily. Nothing can take me from Your hand – not even my own sinful choices.”

 

 

Standing in Grace

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.” Romans 5:1-2

Every word in scripture matters. Every word. God inspired Paul to use the word “stand” for a reason.

A posture of standing communicates strength. Standing commands a certain sense of readiness, stability, and power. Standing is an active posture, utilizing more muscles and burning more calories than sitting or laying.

Most of the time I don’t stand in grace.

I sit, head hung low, shoulders slumped, face downcast, enduring the days the Lord has allotted me.

I mentally assent to the fact that I am saved by grace through faith, and I continue to grow, iota by iota, because of that same grace… but rarely am I inspired to take hold of that grace in my heart and use it as a catalyst to live boldly and confidently in my position with the Lord.

If we correctly understand grace, and we never fully will this side of Heaven, we ought to be on a constant emotional high. We ought to be overtaken by joy and awe all the time because we have been redeemed – bought back from a life of self-induced destruction.

Our confidence ought to be off the charts, our security utterly unshakable, knowing beyond all doubt that we are His. It is finished. Nothing can undo our status as a child of God, forgiven, set free, and empowered by our faith in Jesus Christ to live a life fully pleasing to Him and, simultaneously, fully satisfying to us. (They are one in the same, by the way.) And it is only by grace that this is so.

Paul, the Christians to whom he wrote in Rome, and you and I are to stand in grace. I find it interesting that the text doesn’t read on grace.

The grace given us through our faith in Jesus is our foundation, yes, and we are definitely standing on that foundation. But we are also charged to stand in grace.

That tiny preposition implies we are surrounded and upheld not by our own power or merit or strength but by the very power of grace itself

If we stand in our own strength, it won’t be long before we fall, feint from all the work it takes to get through life. We can’t do it. Or, at least, we can’t do it well.

But when we stand in grace, it’s as if the Lord is holding us up with His own two hands, bearing all our weight for us, relieving our muscles of their duties to keep us upright. And, in that case, we don’t grow weary. We don’t stumble and fall.

You may be realizing about now that I am drawing opposite conclusions from this verse. At first, I said the use of the word “stand” communicates we have an active role in our standing in grace. But then I said the phrase “in grace” implies the standing is not of our doing.

So which is it?

Both.

It is a beautiful mystery how our free will and His sovereignty work together, and if you ever meet someone who can explain it to you fully, don’t believe them.

It seems to me that we have to consent to and cooperate with His desire to stand us up in grace. (I know, I don’t like that sentence either.)

Get out of your seat, Christ-follower. Stand up. It is by grace you have been saved, through faith. Stand in that grace. And allow the Lord Himself to keep you standing. 

How to Be Strong

The other day I was reading in 2 Timothy, and a beautifully unique phrase jumped out at me. Paul says to Timothy, “You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus,” (2 Timothy 2:1).

I know I’ve read this book of the Bible several times, but this verse seemed brand new to me… I must not have noticed it before. (And that’s why/how Bible study never gets old.)

I wondered, what does it mean to be “strong in the grace that is in Christ”?

I liked the sound of it… but what does it mean?

I backed up a paragraph in the text to see what was going on right before Paul wrote this. He was singing the praises of a man named Onesiphorus because he was the only one in Asia who hadn’t deserted Paul. Instead, this guy helped Paul, and Paul was grateful.

Paul follows that report with our verse, “You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” The word “then” suggests our verse is connected with Onesiphorus’ story. What’s the correlation?

Perhaps Paul wants Timothy to consider Onesiphorus as a model for what it means to be strong in the grace that is in Christ. If that’s the case, Onesiphorus shows that strength by “refreshing” Paul (serving him in love), by not being ashamed of Paul’s being in prison (being willing to love Paul even in the face of social stigma and possible persecution), and by helping Paul in “many ways” in Ephesus (2 Timothy 1:15-18).

Onesiphorus sounds like Superstar Christian of the Year. When everyone else refused to help Paul any longer, Onesiphorus went above and beyond to help Paul. It’s almost as if Onesiphorus had supernatural strength…

I began to wonder how other translations of our verse read. A couple caught my eye.

The NLT reads, “Timothy, my dear son, be strong through the grace that God gives you in Christ Jesus.”

The ESV reads, “You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”

Unlike the NIV (1984) translation I read initially, both of these translations more clearly communicate the intended meaning of the verse: believers are to be strengthened or made strong by Jesus’ grace given to them. We should derive our strength for the hard road that is living a fruitful Christian life from the grace of Jesus.

Another verse in 2 Timothy speaks to this idea, “…for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control,” (2 Timothy 1:7). Our spirit of power literally comes from God. Like Onesiphorus, we are to lean on God’s grace to strengthen us for the tasks He has for us.

In another Pauline letter, we find a similar verse, “Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might,” (Ephesians 6:10). We don’t have to conjure up our own strength, and we aren’t commanded to be strong in our own power. Our strength for whatever we do must come from God or we aren’t going to be able to do it for long. 

And as our original verse suggests, the strength we get from the Lord is given to us by grace alone. We aren’t deserving of it. We can’t manipulate it out of Him. It is only by the grace of Jesus that the Lord is willing to strengthen us.

In whatever God is calling you, my friend, to do today, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 

Grace and Peace to You

I drove in the winter sun, feeling warmed not just by the rays streaming in through my windows but from somewhere inside my body.

I’m not sure how many miles I covered before I realized it – I had been smiling the whole way.

I noticed the feeling of warmth and the curve of my lips because they aren’t my norm; they caught me by pleasant surprise.

I didn’t have to inquire what was going on with me; I knew.

His peace.

In that moment, throughout that drive, the Lord was giving me His peace.

Jesus had said it to His disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you,” (John 14:27).

I thought as I drove – isn’t it only by His grace that He gives any of us peace? 

His peace is a gift we get to experience because we are His, and we are only His because we are saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8). Out of His great grace, He bestows peace upon each believer. He leaves it with us; we can choose it anytime we want.

And when I access that peace? When I feel that peace given me by the Lord’s grace? I walk gracefully.

I walk grace-fully.

There is nothing more beautiful than a believer who knows in the depth of her heart Whose she is and walks in that power. There is a grace about her – on her face, in her words, in her steps, in her actions.

Her walk with the Lord and through this life is full of grace.

I can’t remember for sure, but I may have laughed aloud when I realized it. By God’s grace, He gives us peace, which fills us with grace. 

What a beautiful cycle. Grace begetting peace; peace begetting grace. And the cycle doesn’t have to end… ever.

I wondered as I drove, maybe this is what Paul had been trying to teach believers all along?

How many times did Paul start or end his letters with “Grace and peace to you”? Grace and peace. One leads to the next, and vice versa.

Not two hours later, Satan tried to knock me off this truth I was standing on. He looks for opportune times (Luke 4:13).

Someone who is supposed to love me spoke words that cut deep. Unintentionally, the message this person sent me was you’re a failure, and I am ashamed of you.

I got back in my car, but this time I felt the cold of the winter air. There was no trace of the grace nor the peace I had felt earlier.

I did all I knew to do. I thanked God. “Lord, thank you for this conversation that just took place. It wrecked my heart, yes, but it is giving me the chance right now to come to You, to grow closer to You, to learn to walk in Your truth.”

I drove slowly, processing with the Lord what had just happened. I knew what was said to me – what was implied about me – was not true. But that didn’t make it hurt any less. Because the person who said it is supposed to love me.

The Lord spoke truth to the lies I had just heard, words of His sovereignty over my path, my past, my choices. He affirmed I hadn’t failed, despite this person’s opinion. He affirmed He was quite proud of me and spoke to the strength it took to walk the road He had for me. He reminded me that ashamed people shame people; the words spoken to me were not about me, they were about the person who spoke them.

Gently, because of His grace, He was breathing peace back into my demolished heart. My soul re-inflated with His peace, slowly, steadily. And then I was able to look at the person who hurt me so with grace and say, “Lord, his rock of a heart needs You. He is cold and closed and hurting, and he is in desperate need of Your saving. Soften him to Your love.”

Even in the difficult times, His grace bestows peace to enable us to walk gracefully.  If you find yourself lacking either, the solution is to go to Him and talk it out. If you are a believer, He has left you peace. It’s yours for the taking. Go get.

You and I in Psalm 106

Israel.

Throughout the Old Testament, the nation of Israel is reamed for failing to worship God the way they were supposed to. Sometimes they forgot. Sometimes they remembered but refused.

You and I are just the latest models of Israel. We may wear better clothes and have superior technology – more bells and whistles, if you will – but underneath we’re the same old thing – prone to wander, prone to run.

So when we read about Israel’s shenanigans in the Old Testament, we can sub our names in the text for some pretty powerful Bible reading.

Take Psalm 106, for example.

It starts out innocently enough:

1 Praise the Lord.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.

2 Who can proclaim the mighty acts of the Lord
or fully declare his praise?
3 Blessed are those who act justly,
who always do what is right.

4 Remember me, Lord, when you show favor to your people,
come to my aid when you save them,
5 that I may enjoy the prosperity of your chosen ones,
that I may share in the joy of your nation
and join your inheritance in giving praise.

But then it takes a turn for the worse:

6 We have sinned, even as our ancestors did;
we have done wrong and acted wickedly.

We who? We Israel. We you and me. WE have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly. We can all probably rattle off at least 5 ways today we have sinned.

7 When our ancestors were in Egypt,
they gave no thought to your miracles;
they did not remember your many kindnesses,
and they rebelled by the sea, the Red Sea.

This is our story, too. We faintly remember God doing something cool in our pasts… years ago… what was it? We can’t recall… Instead, we rehearse the ways we think He could be doing better by us these days. We feel the indignation stirring up distrust in our hearts.

8 Yet he saved them for his name’s sake,
to make his mighty power known.
9 He rebuked the Red Sea, and it dried up;
he led them through the depths as through a desert.
10 He saved them from the hand of the foe;
from the hand of the enemy he redeemed them.
11 The waters covered their adversaries;
not one of them survived.
12 Then they believed his promises
and sang his praise.

There was a time He saved us. All of us followers of Christ can point to a time or a season in which our initial salvation occurred. He saved us for His name’s sake, and His mighty power was made known. And we believed His promises. We sang His praise… at least for a little while…

13 But they soon forgot what he had done
and did not wait for his plan to unfold.

My lungs choke on this verse. My spirit surges with adrenaline. I know only disaster will come of this for the Israelites… for me. I want to scream, “NO! Don’t forget! Wait for Him!” as if I could spare them – me – from the disaster that necessarily follows such carelessness.

14 In the desert they gave in to their craving;
in the wilderness they put God to the test.
15 So he gave them what they asked for,
but sent a wasting disease among them.

Their flesh won. My flesh wins. When we choose to sin, we’re daring God to discipline us. We call His mercy-bluff time after time, becoming increasingly brazen, “How far will You let me go? Surely I can get away with this ‘little’ sin…” He may let us have whatever we’re craving… but not without consequence. Visible or invisible, the wasting disease always follows on the heels of our choosing sin.

16 In the camp they grew envious of Moses
and of Aaron, who was consecrated to the Lord.
17 The earth opened up and swallowed Dathan;
it buried the company of Abiram.
18 Fire blazed among their followers;
a flame consumed the wicked.
19 At Horeb they made a calf
and worshiped an idol cast from metal.
20 They exchanged their glorious God
for an image of a bull, which eats grass.
21 They forgot the God who saved them,
who had done great things in Egypt,
22 miracles in the land of Ham
and awesome deeds by the Red Sea.
23 So he said he would destroy them—
had not Moses, his chosen one,
stood in the breach before him
to keep his wrath from destroying them.

Envy. Destruction. Consumption. Idolatry. Spiritual amnesia. The Lord’s ire. Nothing good follows our giving into our cravings. God said He would destroy us – you and me – had not Jesus, His chosen One, stood in the breach to keep God’s wrath from destroying us…

I still can’t understand that kind of love. I believe in it… but I don’t comprehend it. And despite having been ransomed in the grandest of fashions through Christ’s death and resurrection, on this side of that incalculable forgiveness, my reaction is often no better than the Israelite’s reaction to Moses’ saving them:

24 Then they despised the pleasant land;
they did not believe his promise.
25 They grumbled in their tents
and did not obey the Lord.

I am redeemed. Blessed in every sense of the word. And I still find a way to despise the pleasant land. I treat the cross with contempt when I take matters into my own hands and disobey God. I’m not thankful enough for His blessings. I don’t trust His words. And I choose to go my own way.

26 So he swore to them with uplifted hand
that he would make them fall in the wilderness,
27 make their descendants fall among the nations
and scatter them throughout the lands.

28 They yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor
and ate sacrifices offered to lifeless gods;
29 they aroused the Lord’s anger by their wicked deeds,
and a plague broke out among them.

Israel yoked themselves to their idols… no one forced them into idolatry. They chose to attach themselves like dumb animals to other gods. I chain myself to God-substitutes too. They may not be carved idols, but I give them my heart before I give my heart to the Lord all the same…

30 But Phinehas stood up and intervened,
and the plague was checked.
31 This was credited to him as righteousness
for endless generations to come.

And Jesus intercedes for me once again, reminding the Lord that the plagues I earn have already been endured by Jesus Himself on my behalf.

32 By the waters of Meribah they angered the Lord,
and trouble came to Moses because of them;
33 for they rebelled against the Spirit of God,
and rash words came from Moses’ lips.

34 They did not destroy the peoples
as the Lord had commanded them,
35 but they mingled with the nations
and adopted their customs.
36 They worshiped their idols,
which became a snare to them.
37 They sacrificed their sons
and their daughters to false gods.
38 They shed innocent blood,
the blood of their sons and daughters,
whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan,
and the land was desecrated by their blood.
39 They defiled themselves by what they did;
by their deeds they prostituted themselves.

Round and round the sin pattern goes with Israel. On and on the cycle whirls with me. Sin, salvation, sin, salvation. When will it stop?

40 Therefore the Lord was angry with his people
and abhorred his inheritance.
41 He gave them into the hands of the nations,
and their foes ruled over them.
42 Their enemies oppressed them
and subjected them to their power.
43 Many times he delivered them,
but they were bent on rebellion
and they wasted away in their sin.

God allows consequences for our wrong choices. We experience pain as a natural result of not worshiping the One we were created to worship. You’d think pain would teach us… but we can’t seem to keep our eyes fixed on Him. We’re bent on rebellion, drawn to it like a moth to a flame. And we waste away in our sin.

44 Yet he took note of their distress
when he heard their cry;
45 for their sake he remembered his covenant
and out of his great love he relented.
46 He caused all who held them captive
to show them mercy.

Grace. That God would even listen to our cries after all we’ve put Him through. And why? For our sakes. He relents and shows love and has mercy on us not to make Him feel better but to benefit us. Oh, what love!

47 Save us, Lord our God,
and gather us from the nations,
that we may give thanks to your holy name
and glory in your praise.

He saves. He saves us from ourselves, from the Enemy of our souls, from every threat. And our response must be to give thanks and to glory in His praise – to relish in who He is. Worship.

48 Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,

from everlasting to everlasting.

Let all the people say, “Amen!”

Praise the Lord.