Psalm 118, Meditation 4

Psalm 118 (NRSV)

By John Grimm

There is nothing more timeless than salvation.  As Chuck pointed out yesterday, the psalms have a timelessness to them.  The timelessness of salvation is what we all want to know.  This desire is ingrained in our lives.  We want to be secure in our living now and our hope for the future.

This salvation comes only from the Lord.  We see verses 21-25 pointing out how God becomes our salvation.

I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation.
The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.
This is the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Save us, we beseech you, O LORD! O LORD, we beseech you, give us success!

Jesus was rejected by those who were attempting to build Israel into a great nation.  It is by knowing Jesus as the chief cornerstone of life that we have salvation.  We can sing about Jesus delivering us from our sins and ourselves.  Jesus will give us success over the sins we have committed and the nature of sin in us.

Salvation is not merely being delivered from sin. Salvation involves us discovering how we can be made new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17ff.).  Salvation is lived in our lives during this day and all the following days.  We marvel because, like God’s mercies being new each day, he continues to renew us in the image of Christ.  This is salvation, being made to bear the image of Christ fully and completely in our lives.

Lord God, thank you for Jesus Christ.  We are looking for success in bearing the image of Christ in our lives.  As we seek you, we can rejoice in how you are working in us so that we live like Jesus, even today.  In the name of Jesus Christ, we ask that we may be found to be like him more each day.  Amen.

Psalm 118, Meditation 2

Psalm 118 (NRSV)

By John Grimm

I remember my youth Sunday School teacher, Bill, reminding us that we can give thanks to God each day.  Whether we thank God for something large or small, we can show our appreciation to God.  In this “Song of Victory,” we start by giving thanks to God.  It is a general call for thanksgiving.

As we move through the first four verses of Psalm 118, we see that the call for thanksgiving becomes more specific.  The second group encouraged to give thanks is Israel.  As we ponder what God has brought Israel from, through, and to, we can recognize they know the steadfast love of God does endure! 

The house of Aaron is the next group to be encouraged to give thanks.  Yes, Aaron did lead the Israelites to make the golden calf.  However, God’s steadfast love was given so he and his descendants could know God’s forgiveness.  Yes, even those who lead in the worship of God can give thanks.  For we clergy who lead worship, our worship begins when we too can give thanks to God for his steadfast love.

The last group in our selection today is those who fear the Lord.  This group can contain members of the previous two groups mentioned.  It can also contain those who are now called Christians!  Even our neighbors who do not subscribe to organized religion may be in the group of those who fear the Lord.

Despite our best efforts, Christians can harm people who are seeking faith in God.  When these people have a respect for the Lord, they do not tolerate Christians who have harmed them.  Hopefully, those turned off by organized religion may recognize the steadfast love of the Lord and join Christians in giving thanks to God.

Have we been giving thanks to God every day of our lives?  Do we encourage other people to give thanks to God for his steadfast love?  As long as the earth has seasons, we will know the steadfast love of God!

Lord, you do have steadfast love for us!  You are good to me and everyone else.  Thank you for being in our lives.  May we open our eyes to your steadfast love, even when others have harmed us.  In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

The Suffering Servant

Isaiah 52:13-53:12 (NRSV)

See, my servant shall prosper;
    he shall be exalted and lifted up,
    and shall be very high.
Just as there were many who were astonished at him
    —so marred was his appearance, beyond human semblance,
    and his form beyond that of mortals—
so he shall startle many nations;
    kings shall shut their mouths because of him;
for that which had not been told them they shall see,
    and that which they had not heard they shall contemplate.
Who has believed what we have heard?
    And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
    and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by others;
    a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity;
and as one from whom others hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him of no account.

Surely he has borne our infirmities
    and carried our diseases;
yet we accounted him stricken,
    struck down by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions,
    crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
    and by his bruises we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have all turned to our own way,
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
    yet he did not open his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
    and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth.
By a perversion of justice he was taken away.
    Who could have imagined his future?
For he was cut off from the land of the living,
    stricken for the transgression of my people.
They made his grave with the wicked
    and his tomb with the rich,
although he had done no violence,
    and there was no deceit in his mouth.

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain.
When you make his life an offering for sin,
    he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days;
through him the will of the Lord shall prosper.
    Out of his anguish he shall see light;
he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge.
    The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous,
    and he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great,
    and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;
because he poured out himself to death,
    and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
    and made intercession for the transgressors.

God, thank you for this description of Jesus’ persecution and death.  May your will prosper in us through our faith in Jesus.  It is by that faith we find you make us righteous in Christ.  Help us to know how good we have it in this life because of Jesus’ suffering.  Prepare us to live and die like Jesus Christ so our family, friends and enemies may know the righteousness that we all can have in Christ.  In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray.  Amen.

What a Savior!

Isaiah 50:4-9 (NRSV)

By John Grimm

Wednesday of Holy Week means we are one day closer to Jesus’ arrest, flogging, trial, crucifixion and death.  Centuries before Holy Week, Isaiah tells us about the servant of God who will be humiliated and vindicated.  Now, almost two millennia after Holy Week, we continue to realize all the servant of God went through.  This prophecy shows how the servant of God did not turn back.

We know this servant of the Lord to be Jesus the Christ.  Yes, he was a teacher.  But he is so much more than that!  Yes, he was obedient to the Lord God.  But he did not turn back when he was abused.  Yes, he had his face set like flint.  But no one could contend with him.

The determination of Jesus the Christ leads us onward.  His willingness to suffer for us is forgotten when we fail to receive the Lord’s Supper.  We can not do any better than our Savior, Jesus the Christ! 

Will we contend with Jesus?  Will we confront Jesus?  Will we declare Jesus guilty?  We are not capable of doing these tasks.  Our life is but a breath.  We will wear out.  The truth about Jesus the Christ will contend with us.  The truth about Jesus will confront us.  The truth about our guilt is known by Jesus the Christ.  When we decide for Jesus in our lives, then there is no condemnation for us! 

What a Savior!  Jesus withstands much abuse (50:6).  Yet, he willingly does so.  Why?  First, because the Lord God vindicates him.  Second, because we need a savior.  We will find as we believe and follow the Savior that God will stand by us as well. 

Holy Spirit, aid us in setting our faces like flint so we may see the goodness of our Savior.  Strengthen our resolve to cling to the Lord God through Jesus the Christ.  As we find the shame of our sin removed through Jesus’ blood, may we have life with Jesus eternally.  In the powerful name of Jesus the Christ, we pray.  Amen.

Love, Peace, Compassion

 Isaiah 54:9-10 (NRSV)

By John Grimm

God keeps his promises.  The rainbow is still seen in the sky as a guarantee of God’s promise to not destroy life on earth by flooding the entire world.  In the days of Isaiah, that same promise was being realized.  Even though God corrected Israel and Judah, he did not wipe them off the face of the planet. 

We have times that we feel God would be justified in destroying us.  We have wronged ourselves and others, and we are confident that we have overthrown any good God has for us.  God will chastise us, for he loves us.  God the Holy Spirit makes sure we know that we have gone against the will of God.  Since we are still here on earth, we realize that we have not done the unpardonable sin.  It is by correcting us that we find God still loves us!

This world may change.  In fact, how we have lived on this planet has changed.  We do not have the same practices of living that we did hundreds of years ago.  The only constant amidst the changes of life is God.  God has steadfast love for us, no matter the style of the day.  God keeps his covenant of peace with us, even when the others of this world (political party, nations, rivals, etc.), have turned against us.  God has compassion for us through the times we feel abandoned, depressed and ready to give up.

Lord God, we sometimes feel that our situations are too much for even you!  Forgive us for confusing your ability with our ability.  Being reassured of your love, peace and compassion gets us through the changes we see in the world around us.  Because we trust you through Jesus Christ, we can live through even these days.  May our family and friends find that they too can trust you.  In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray.  Amen.

Burnt Sacrifice

Psalm 20 (NRSV)

By John Grimm

The best cattle, sheep, and turtle doves were the material for a burnt offering (Leviticus 1).  The unblemished and best male was to be offered by the priests.  The whole of the beast was to be burned, except for the entrails.  Performing this sacrifice was a means of atonement with God.  Nothing of the animal was eaten by the one who offered the burnt sacrifice.  The aroma was said to be pleasing to the Lord.

We now know that Jesus Christ is the one by whom we have atonement.  Jesus sets things right between us and God.  We can only get to God through faith in Jesus Christ.  We are thankful that bulls, rams, and turtle doves are no longer necessary to please God. 

Yet we Christians call upon the Lord and say we have not heard from God.  What are we keeping back in our faith?  Are we keeping the best of who we are from God?  Do we clamp onto our best and rely on our best to get us through troubles in this life?  We may do such activities because we do not want to see our best completely burnt.

Trusting in chariots, horses, stock portfolios, trucks, job titles, or anything else, keeps us from placing our pride in the name of the Lord.  It might be time to give up the things we trust.  As we continue through Lent, our time is being spent learning to trust God.  Maybe all we can do is trust God to protect us.  Then we can be focused on God alone and trusting him.

God, we are still learning that we can trust you.  It is not our belongings, no matter how wonderful they are, that can save us.  It is by trusting Jesus that we rise and stand. May our possessions be as burnt sacrifices as we learn to depend upon you.  In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray.  Amen.

Deliverance

Psalm 32:6-11

By John Grimm

It may be that the enticing aspect of the rapture is that we will be taken out of terrible situations.  However, God does not pick us up, sweep away the trouble, and then place us down again in the same place we had been.  It is true to say that God is our hiding place.  It is true that God keeps us while trouble is going on around us.

While God is keeping us during trouble, we hear cries of deliverance.  Other people, who also trust God, are gladly shouting praise to God.  It is possible to exult God during trouble.  We find that as God is faithful to us, we also can be faithful to him.

Can we continue to learn from the Lord the way we should go?  Can we heed his counsel, knowing God knows the very situation we are in?  As we give affirmative answers to these questions, we realize God’s steadfast love surrounds us.  Our hearts become upright as we trust God.  Then, we rejoice greatly!

Lord God, you are with us in our troubles.  You hide and preserve us.  We know that we can get through the trouble.  We praise you for enveloping us with your steadfast love as we trust in you.  You make us glad.  Thank you!  We praise you in the name of Jesus Christ for the deliverance you are giving us.  Amen.

A Widow’s Trust

2 Kings 4:1-7 (NRSV)

By John Grimm

Can we trust one another?  Can we trust God when times are lean? 

These questions come to mind when we read about a prophet’s widow and her two children.  Yes, there are times that husbands die and the family cannot pay a creditor.  Yes, there are creditors who do not care about the situation. 

It is the prophet Elisha who conveys the trust for the widow.  She trusted him to find a way forward for her and her children.  This miracle of the oil could come only from God.  By speaking what could only come from God, Elisha shows the amount of trust the widow could have.  We need not know how much olive oil that was poured into the borrowed vessels.  We need only to know that all the debts were paid and the widow, with her children, could live on the rest.

We can trust God for our lives.  It is by depending upon the Lord that we can live.  When we believe in Jesus Christ, our life becomes an abundant life.  Maybe our situations are not like this widow’s situation.  Are we willing to trust a prophet today?  Are we willing to trust God when we are deep in debt?  Are we willing to trust God when a loved one dies? 

It could be that we learn to fear the Lord, like the deceased prophet had done. 

God, our lives can end unexpectedly.  Our families can be left owing much to creditors.  Increase our faith now so we can trust you like the widow did.  May our fearing of you strengthen as we see how trustworthy you are.  In the name of Jesus Christ, may we find the abundant life you have for us.  Amen.

Unneeded Silence

Psalm 32 (NRSV)

By John Grimm

I did it again.  I kept my sin to myself.   Well, at least I thought I did.  Did people notice how short I was with them?  How much did my losing battle with sin show up in my life?

The psalmist is blessed, even happy, that the Lord has not charged him with iniquity.  Why is this state possible for the psalmist?  The psalmist has not tried to be deceitful regarding the wrong actions and words the psalmist has performed.  The psalmist is honest with God.

I, too, have noticed this phenomenon in my life.  Telling God my transgressions has been a freeing experience.  Otherwise, I keep my wrongdoing bottled up.   When that happens, the “woe is me” attitude is one of the ways my body wastes away.  The bottled-up truth of my sin will come out eventually, for my strength has limits.

After I have told God my sin and transgressions, he teaches me how I can live.  His steadfast love, his love that knows no bounds, is around me.  He gives me the ability to shout for joy because his forgiveness has allowed me to be upright in heart.  It is when I have unneeded silence in my life, because of bottling up my sins, that I fail to know and experience the steadfast love of God.

God, during these forty days I grow closer to you by being honest with you.  I have sinned.  I have gone against you and hurt myself, and others.  Hear my confession.  It is you who forgives my sins against you.  May I have the time and space to tell others how you have forgiven me.  In the Name of Jesus Christ, I ask that I may know the ways your steadfast love surrounds me. Amen.

Muzzled

Psalm 39 (NRSV)

By John Grimm

I do not like to be silent.  It is my vocation that allows me to speak.  However, there are times to be silent.  As a Christian, there are times that my mouth can get me into trouble.  It is when I speak my piece that life falls to pieces!

Yes, I have been known to create problems for myself, and others, when I open my mouth.  It occurs to me that God may not want or need me to use the breath he has given me for all the purposes that I intend to voice.  Knowing the difference is necessary.   

My days will only be so long.  They are but a breath compared to the days of the Lord.  Then it is up to me to be silent.  I cannot speak and deliver myself from the trouble I have caused.  People would say, when you are done digging the hole you are in, put the shovel down!  If my hope is in God, then I can use my breath to state my hope is in God (v. 7). 

When God corrects me, I accept his chastisement.  God only corrects me so that I may be better, even holy as he is holy.  It is when I am going through the chastisement that I speak much.  My story about God chastising me need not be told to everyone while God is chastising me!  Only after God’s chastisement do I need to speak by giving praise to God.

It is a wise idea to speak more with God than with others, especially while God is chastising me.  Then I can speak to God how I have broken the peace between myself and others.  Others will know that I muzzled myself for my own good.  The speaking that is appropriate is praise of God.  It would be wise for me to know this truth. 

God, my relationship with you is important.  When I speak with others about my travails and my situation with the wicked, I realize I need to muzzle myself!  It is you who are capable and willing to get me through my travails and my being with the wicked.  I can trust you all my days.  Thank you for chastising me when I have needed such.  Thank you that I can speak your praises.  May I know the times I can take off the muzzle and let others know of how good you have been to me in my short life.  In the name of Jesus, I pray for such wisdom.  Amen.