Thursday, December 28, 2017

Daniel 9:8-9, 18 (ESV)
[8] To us, O LORD, belongs open shame, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against you. [9]  To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him

[18]  O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy.

When believers, who are well versed in their Bibles, think of Daniel 9 they often think of the last paragraph that contains a prophecy of the restoration of Jerusalem and of the Abomination of Desolation that Matthew 24 makes reference to. It is a passage that dispensationalists hold as important in understanding End Times prophecy. But, there is so much more to this chapter.

Daniel’s prayer is especially revealing. First, Daniel prays for the restoration of Jerusalem because he found in the writings of Jeremiah that there was to be 70 years between the destruction of the city and its rebuilding. Daniel’s prayer was based on God’s revelation. Our prayers too ought to be based on God’s Word, not our wish and our will.

Second, Daniel’s request is not based on what he thinks God’s people deserve, but on the mercy of God. Too often we approach prayer as though it were a bargain with God. “God, I’ve been good. Please grant me this wish.” It sounds a lot like a child on Santa’s lap. “Have you been a good little boy or girl? What do you want for Christmas?” But Daniel understands that a petition grounded in our goodness is pointless. Rather, he honestly acknowledges the sin of God’s people, and then asks for restoration based on the mercy of God. “For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy” (Dan 9:18).

Evangelicals would give their lives for the gospel of salvation by grace through faith, not of works (see Eph 2:8-9). Yet when it comes to living out their faith, and especially when it comes to their prayer life, they tend towards a works based belief system. We so easily slip into the theology of Job’s comforters. We begin to believe that bad things happen because we are bad. Prayers are not answered because we do not have enough faith, or because we have not been good enough. But prayers are never answered because we are good enough. Prayers are answered because we served a gracious and merciful God. And how much faith equals that of a mustard seed? Surely not much. We deserve nothing, yet God has granted us more blessings then we can count.

Johnson Oatman Jr. published a song in 1897 that comes to mind: Count Your Blessings. Our blessings are more than we can count even in the darkest hours. When we live in a theology of works, we fail to see and acknowledge the great blessings of God’s mercy and grace. When we believe that God hears us because we are good, or because we have enough faith, our eyes are constantly on us. We are looking to see if we are good enough. We are trying to muster up enough faith. But the mature believer knows that our eyes are to be fixed not on us, but on our Savior. It is his mercy that grants us innumerable blessings. It is his grace that accepts us and invites us into his throne room. And it is his peace that surrounds us not because of who we are, but because of who he is.

“We do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy” (Dan 9:18). So, let us be honest about our weakness, our brokenness, and our sin, and let us turn our eyes to Jesus, “The founder and perfecter of our faith” (Heb 12:2). I love the lyrics of the old Irish hymn written somewhere around 14 centuries ago:

Be Thou my Vision
O Lord of my heart
Nought be all else to me
Save that Thou art
Thou my best thought
By day or by night
Waking or sleeping
Thy presence my light

It is not about us. It is about Him.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Daniel 8:27 (ESV)
[27] And I, Daniel, was overcome and lay sick for some days. Then I rose and went about the king’s business, but I was appalled by the vision and did not understand it.

Two thoughts struck me as I read Daniel 8 multiple times over the past week or so. First, the great power of the Medes and Persians was a force against which no one could stand (Dan 8:4). Still, a more powerful force came against it and conquered it. We are often impressed by the power of a nation, the intelligence of a scientist or professor, the personal magnetism of an individual, or the influence of those our world considers important. Yet there is always someone greater; there is always some force more powerful. Those we are so impressed with are just people in the end. There is always someone greater. The standard by which we measure greatness is not the standard God uses.

Second, even though Gabriel was told to give Daniel understanding, in the end Daniel says, “I was appalled by the vision and did not understand it” (Dan 8:27). Daniel was overwhelmed with what he saw, but he did not understand it. We do not need to understand all of scripture. We do not need to have a clear understanding of the End Times. Perhaps if we did understand, we would be as appalled as Daniel, as overwhelmed with God’s greatness, man’s evil, and how the story will end.

Whether we understand, or are clueless, we can trust. Whether we are people of power, or powerless, we can understand that the greatest force is God himself. We do not see the future. We cannot fully comprehend how things will end. We do not have the ability to bring about things as we would like. What we can know is that God saw it all long before we were born. He has planned the end from the beginning. The power of people and spirits are ultimately powerless. Only God stands above creation. We can rest in that truth.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Daniel 7:27 (ESV)
[27]  And the kingdom and the dominion
and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven
shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High;
 his kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom,
and all dominions shall serve and obey him.’

Looking back through history the kingdoms of the world have been powerful and glorious. Some of them have been destructive. Some have been unifying and peaceful. But in the end, for all that they achieved, they came to an end. No kingdom of mankind is eternal. But “His kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom” (Dan 7:27). No glory compares to God’s glory. No greatness compares to God’s greatness. No kingdom compares to God’s kingdom. “All dominions shall serve and obey him” (Dan 7:27).

The great kingdoms of Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome have all fallen. Their glory lies in ruins. It seems that every generation has a different ruler or nation threatening mankind’s peace, or even its existence. But in the end, they all fall. The same could be said of personal glory. Business men grow empires only to be replaced by someone else. The wealthy build immense homes only to leave it behind when they die. Ecclesiastes is right when it concludes that all is vanity under the sun.

That raises the question of what I am building. Am I giving my life to that which will last for eternity, or am I building an empire of reputation, wealth, experiences, or stuff that will all be left behind? Am I giving my life to building that which is under the sun, or to he who created the sun? The glory of this world will fade, but God’s glory lasts forever. In the words of Joshua, “Choose this day whom you will serve” (Josh 24:15).

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Daniel 6:6-9 (ESV)
[6] Then these high officials and satraps came by agreement to the king and said to him, “O King Darius, live forever! [7] All the high officials of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an injunction, that whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions. [8] Now, O king, establish the injunction and sign the document, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be revoked.” [9] Therefore King Darius signed the document and injunction.

Daniel 6 sounds an awful lot like the politics of our day. People are jockeying for position, manipulating the system, and either exposing or creating a scandal around their political enemies. It is not about right or truth. It is simply about position and power. Sound familiar?

The significant thing about this story is that Daniel does not allow himself to get caught up in the scandalous politics of his day. He simply continues to act with integrity, and continues to walk with his God. Too often when things look like they are going against us we sink to the world’s level and play by their rules. We begin to talk compromise, we expose scandalous behavior, we play dirty politics like the rest of the world. We rationalize that we are in the world, therefore we must play by the world’s rules. But that is not how Daniel lived.

His prayer was not a protest. It was simply a continuation of biblical behavior. When Solomon dedicated the temple in 1Kings 8 he prayed “And listen to the plea of your servant and of your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. And listen in heaven your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive” (1Kng 8:30). Solomon’s prayer was based on the instructions and promises of God given in the Law. When Daniel was praying, he was simply acting on that biblical truth. He was pleading with God toward to location of the desecrated and destroyed temple, knowing that God in heaven heard his prayer. Too often we turn our prayers into public protests. That is not what Daniel was doing.

 Three things are significant in this story. First, Daniel never compromised his integrity. His political enemies could find nothing to accuse him of. They could find no wrongdoing, so they had to create a scandal. Second, his integrity landed him in the lion’s den. We sometimes talk and act as though doing the right thing and walking in integrity and truth will always cause things to turn out right. Sometimes it lands us in the lion’s den. Are we willing to die for the integrity of our faith? Daniel was. Third, God protected Daniel and worked his purposes. In the end, Daniel’s political enemies ended up lion food. Daniel was promoted. There is no promise that the story will end up that way for us. The end of Hebrews 11 celebrates the faith of those who died for their faith.

Hebrews 11:35-38 (ESV)
[35]  Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. [36] Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. [37]  They were stoned, they were sawn in two,  they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— [38] of whom the world was not worthy— wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

Not everyone who believed God was saved from death. Daniel survived a night with the lions and came out without a scratch. Paul was beaten, stoned, and eventually killed for his faith. Either way, they played by God’s rules, not man’s, and God’s purpose was accomplished. They never compromised their integrity.

What is fascinating is that they were also well liked. Neither Paul nor Daniel were opposed because they were obnoxious about their faith. They were opposed because their integrity and their faithfulness to scripture was seen as an obstacle to those less honorable and more duplicitous. Doing the right thing doesn’t always make everyone happy. On the other hand, just because something seems right to us does not make it right. With Daniel, we need to walk in integrity and biblical faithfulness no matter the consequences. It is time we stop playing the world’s game by the world’s rules. It is time we walk in integrity and biblical faithfulness no matter what people think of you or what they say about you. Are you willing to go there?

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

What is the role of obedience in the life of the Believer? I just discovered something I wrote over 20 years ago that addresses that question. Let me share it with you.

            What is the relationship of obedience to the life of the believer? Is obedience important? Does God care if I obey him? Am I saved if I do not obey God? If salvation is by grace, through faith, not of works, then where does obedience fit in? How does grace and obedience relate to one another? These are difficult questions that we struggle with for, on the one hand we do not want to develop a works centered salvation that somehow merits God’s approval. On the other hand we have too many verses in the Bible that talk about obedience to simply throw it out the window altogether. If I am to go on in my Christian life in the same way I began, and I am, then I must be careful that I do not develop a works centered understanding of sanctification either. Yet, I cannot ignore the fact that God calls me to obey him. Nor can I ignore the fact that when God speaks of obedience he speaks authoritatively, that is, I am to obey because of his authority, not just because I happen to feel like it. How do I put all this together? Let’s begin by asking and attempting to answer a few basic questions.
How was I saved? Was I saved by works or by grace? I was saved by grace, through faith, not of works (Ephesians 2.8-9). Did I come to God or did He draw me to himself? When I came to faith in Christ I heard that I must receive Jesus as my savior by faith. I did that. As I look back, however, I understand that both the desire to be saved, and the ability to believe Him were gifts of grace from God. Jesus said no one can come to him unless the Father draws them (John 6.44). So I received and believed, but I received and believed because the Father was drawing me even though I did not understand that at the time. My salvation, then, was not of works, but of grace appropriated by faith as a result of the Spirit of God convicting and drawing me to Christ.
How am I made holy? I am made holy, or sanctified in three ways. First, I am sanctified already by faith in Christ, that is, I have been separated from the penalty and power of sin. Second, I am in the process of practically experiencing, or living out sanctification in this life, that is, I am being separated from the practice of sin. Third, I will be eternally sanctified when I am with Christ, that is, I will be separated from the penalty, power, practice, and presence of sin for ever.
How does the process of being separated from the practice of sin work?  Through the Word, the Church, and the Holy Spirit, as well as His discipline, and the circumstances of life that God has complete control over, He is working in me both the desire and ability to do that which pleases Him (Philippians 2.13).
Does God really care whether I do that which pleases Him? Is obedience important? Absolutely! There are too many verses in the Bible that stress obedience for us to suggest that it is not important.
Why is obedience so important if I relate to him by grace instead of works? Obedience has nothing to do with gaining God’s approval or getting Him to like us. Why I obey is as important as how I obey. I do not obey to gain God’s approval, I obey in response to His approval. “We love him because He first loved us”(1John 4.19). It has everything to do with who we are in Christ. A diamond should never act like a piece of glass, though many a piece of glass has attempted to imitate a diamond. We are a diamond in Christ. When Paul was asked, “Should I keep sinning so God’s grace will be even greater?” He protested in response, “God forbid! How shall we who are dead to sin keep living in it?” The motivation for obedience is not in attempting to find God’s approval or somehow trying to get on His good side. We are already approved! We are already on His good side. The motivation for obedience is simply that anything less is directly contrary to who we are. We aren’t sinners anymore. We are possessors of new life, God’s life. Disobedience is simply, and completely, inconsistent with who we are. But I still feel like a sinner. That is not the point. God never asks you to live consistent with who you feel you are, but with who He knows you to be on the basis or your relationship to Christ. Take it by faith!
But there is my problem. I keep trying to obey and I keep failing. I know that I am a new creature in Christ but I keep living like the old man. What am I doing wrong? Failure is a part of the process. Failure keeps casting us back in dependence on God until I finally cry out in total frustration, “Who shall deliver me?” God gently responds back, “ I have delivered you! What you cannot do, I have already done in Christ, and I have empowered you by my Spirit. Just trust me.” (Romans 8). In the same way that I appropriated salvation by faith as a result of God’s grace, I can now appropriate God’s power over sin by faith as a result of His grace.
So obedience is the result of the life of Christ reckoned to me and the work of the Spirit within me? Yes. Both the motivation to obey, and the ability to obey find their source in God. Remember Philippians 2.13, “for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
What is the relationship of obedience to the life of the believer? Obedience is the normal expression of the Spirit filled life. Is obedience important? Absolutely, because anything less is inconsistent with who I am. Does God care if I obey him? Certainly He does, for He loves me too much to be satisfied with sin in my life. He does not want to see me living beneath my position in Christ. Am I saved if I do not obey God? Yes, the gaining, and keeping of our salvation is not dependent on what we do, but on what Christ did. We will never completely escape the influence of sin in this life, we will only understand more and more how deeply that influence goes and how gracious God is in relating to us on the basis of Christ, not works. If salvation is by grace, through faith, not of works, then where does obedience fit in? Obedience is the practical expression of our salvation. How does grace and obedience relate to one another? Obedience is the result of God’s grace in my life.
Two more questions then. First, how should I view God’s commands in scripture, and how should I teach them? Every command of God is scripture that he expects you to obey is an expression of the life of Christ. For example, when God says, “Love your neighbor.” What He is really saying is, “I have shed abroad my love in your heart and I desire to express is through you to your neighbor.” (See Romans 5.5). I respond to God’s commands by recognizing them as expressions of the life of Christ and recognizing my dependence on Him to express them in keeping with His holiness. Someone once said that we should view every command of God as a promise. God is saying that this is what he will produce in us. Second, Does that mean that I shouldn’t do anything unless I feel like it in order to ensure that I am following the Spirit’s leading? No, that is not what it means. The Spirit speaks to us through the Word as well as in our hearts. Therefore, when God’s word commands, I respond in submissive, dependent obedience, recognizing my need for Him to work His work through me. The Christian life is a life of active obedience that flows out of rest in the provisions of Christ.

I must never back away from the concept of obedience, but I must always understand it in terms of submission and dependence, never in terms of acceptance and approval. I must never think of spiritual life as a formula, add 2 parts confession, 1 part prayer, 3 parts obedience and I’m spiritual. I must understand spiritual life as a process of growth. God is in the process of taking me through experiences in life that He will use to motivate me, hone me, guide me, mold me into His image by His grace as I appropriate His life through faith.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Daniel 5:29-31 (ESV)
[29] Then Belshazzar gave the command, and Daniel was clothed with purple, a chain of gold was put around his neck, and a proclamation was made about him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom.
[30]  That very night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was killed. [31]  And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.

The glory of man is short-lived at best. Daniel was clothed with royal clothing, given a gold chain to wear, and made third in the kingdom. He would have been the envy of every wise man, counselor, and noble in the kingdom. Yet Daniel knew that it meant nothing. By morning it was all gone. Babylon had fallen to Persia. Whatever glory the Babylonian king had conferred on Daniel was meaningless. There was a new king in town.

The world has not really changed. People are still vying for wealth and attention. But it is short-lived. The idols of my youth are now dead or old. There are new idols, new gods of the media, new “beautiful people.” But it won’t last. So many die young. The few that live to old age often live in emptiness with little hope or meaning. The glory of this world is fleeting. The wealth of this world cannot stop the process of death that grips us all. We strive for a big house only to discover that we don’t need all that room any more and it is too much to take care of. We strive for wealth only to give it all to the medical professionals. We work hard to stay healthy only to discover that eventually our health fails us. The glory of this world fades, and it fades quickly.

Belshazzar was king. Much of the known world was under his control. He felt secure in his position. He reveled in his glory and wealth. Then a hand wrote on the wall, and by morning he was dead. Ecclesiastes is right. In Ecclesiastes 2:17-19 Solomon wrote,

So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me, for all is vanity and a striving after wind. I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity.

If the wealth and glory of this life are all that we have then what is the point? It will all turn to dust one day. Someone will sort through our stuff. They will hoard it, sell it, or throw it in the trash. One man told me he was buying stuff and storing it in his garage so that when he died his kids would have to get rid of it. If that is the biggest goal we have in our hearts, to amass stuff in order for someone else to get rid of it, we have too small a goal. If that is all our lives are about then we have too small a life. We have learned nothing from Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, and Daniel.

What are you giving your life to? Temporal stuff or eternal value? Learn from Daniel. Let us humble our hearts before God and pursue only that which lasts for eternity. What are you giving your life to?

Friday, December 8, 2017

Daniel 4:1-3 (ESV)
[1] King Nebuchadnezzar to all peoples, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you! [2] It has seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me.
[3] How great are his signs,
how mighty his wonders!
His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and his dominion endures from generation to generation.

We are always enamored with our own creations. We are intrigued by our own photographs. When we look at a group photo we always look for ourselves. We want to know what we look like. Let’s face it, we are a narcissistic people. The same is true in politics. Leaders from around the world brag, boast, threaten, and insinuate, jockeying for positions of power. All the time they are unaware of the truth Nebuchadnezzar learned the hard way. They have no power but that which has been granted them by the Most High God.

Nebuchadnezzar was impressed with his own greatness. God took his mind from him for a period of time in order to show him that it is only God who is great. Anything Nebuchadnezzar accomplished was at the mercy of God. “(God’s) kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation” (Dan 4:3). Our present-day politicians, business leaders, and spiritual leaders would do well to remember that.

Whether or not we are in positions of power and influence, this is a truth we must never forget. We talk and act as though the President of the United States has some power to change the world. We talk and act as though terrorists and warmongers offer a real threat. We talk and act as though the economy is in out of control, and business leaders have the ability to control the economic and political outcomes of nations and peoples. But the truth is, “There is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Rom 13:1).
Daniel 4:34b -35(ESV)
His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;
all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
and among the inhabitants of the earth;
 and none can stay his hand
or say to him, “What have you done?”

“All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will” (Dan 4:35). What if we thought, talked, lived, and acted as though that is actually true?

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

A friend had a couple questions from my last post. He wondered about my reference to God's reputation, and about my reference to a war of the gods. It occurred to me that others may have the same questions so I will post my response to his questions here.

I’m going to answer you second question first. Deut 10:17 calls God, "God of gods and Lord of lords." Ps 136:2 says, "Give thanks to the God of gods, For His lovingkindness is everlasting." It reminds me of Paul's words in 1 Cor 8:4-6:

[4] Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” [5] For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— [6] yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

In other words, you are correct that there is but one God, yet there are the gods of the world. Paul equates the gods of the world with demons in 1Cor 10:20. A war of the gods then is both a battle of faith systems, and a conflict between demons and God. War does not mean that both sides are equal, or even comparable. It does not imply that either side might win. The point is that God is God of gods. He is master of angels and demons. Satan constantly tries to lift himself up as the god of this world. 2Cor 4:4 calls him the "god of this world." Yet even though he believes himself to be an equal to God, there is no contest. In Daniel, God was demonstrating his superiority. The phrase "a battle of the gods" is a reference to the superiority of God over the gods of Babylon (whether demons masquerading as gods, or simply man-made belief systems). Either way, God demonstrated his superiority. So, are there gods other than God? Yes and no. There is no God but god, yet Satan and his demons often masquerade as gods. To go back to Paul, on the one hand idols are nothing. On the other hand idols are demons. There is a sense in which both are true.

As to your first question: The reputation of God is always on the line in the lives of those who claim to follow him. There will always be those who malign God. There will always be those who look at evil in the world and blame God. God's reputation is not on the line in the sense that he is on the verge of making a bad decision. It is on the line in the sense that his followers are often on the verge of making bad decisions. In Daniel 3 the three young men acted in a manner that brought glory to their God. It did not matter whether God spared them. What mattered was that they would not dishonor him by bowing to the King's statue. What unbelievers know or believe about God is often based on what they see in his followers. My goal in life is not to preserve my comfort, but to exalt the reputation of my God. To say it another way, my goal is to glorify my God. In Daniel, whether he spared the three men, or allowed them to burn, his reputation would have been preserved because these three men were willing to put their lives on the line for their God. Not many are willing to do that. God acts to draw men to himself. In Dan 3 God chose to do that through sparing his followers and demonstrating his power over the Babylonian gods and the king's fire. In the end God will be glorified. The real challenge is whether I, as a believer, am living to glorify him now, or simply living to pursue my own personal peace and affluence. God's reputation is on the line every day in the decisions that I make. Thus Jesus instructs us, "...let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven" (Mt 5:16).

I hope you find these clarifications helpful.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Daniel 3:13 (ESV)
[13] Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king. [14] Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? [15] Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?”

Nebuchadnezzar had an image made that was 90 feet tall and 9 feet wide. He then called everyone together for a dedication of the image. The dedication was apparently not the issue for Daniel’s friends. They appear to have been at the dedication. The issue came when they were instructed to worship the image. We might be tempted to think that this is just semantics. The word worship means to bow down. Maybe he wasn’t asking them to actually worship the image, but just to honor it. But the chapter clearly connects the image with the other gods of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar says to Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego, “You do not serve my gods or worship the golden image” (Dan 3:14). Further, he claims that there is no god capable of delivering them from his power. This is a battle of the gods.

This is not about protecting these three friends. They are willing to die for their faith. What is at stake here is more than their lives. It is the reputation of their God. It is fascinating that Nebuchadnezzar has men throw them into the furnace for him, but when he sees them walking unharmed in the furnace with a fourth individual, he personally goes to the furnace and calls them out. Nebuchadnezzar realized that their God is a god like he has never seen or heard of before. The gods of the world, the gods of the Babylonians are only as powerful as their ruthless kings, but here is a God who is more powerful than fire, which destroys everything. Here is a God over whom Nebuchadnezzar has no power. This was a battle of the gods, and his gods lost royally.

He did not respond by requiring everyone to worship their God, but he did make a law that no one was allowed to disrespect their God. God’s reputation was on the line. In the end God was glorified. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were more concerned about the reputation of their God than they were about their own lives. It reminds me of Paul’s words in Romans 12:1-2,
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.   Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Or his words in Philippians 1:21, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego put their lives on the line for the reputation of their God. We, on the other hand, have a hard time missing a meal for the reputation of our God. Perhaps we do not know our God as well as we would like to think. My new Ukrainian friend in Odessa grew up with a father in Russian prisons because he was a Baptist minister. He spent 17 years in prison because of his faith. Believers in many countries around the world put their lives on the line daily for the sake of their faith. We complain if the heat is to high or to low, or the music is too loud, or too slow.

Sometimes I wonder if we really know the God of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego at all. At the end of Daniel 2 Nebuchadnezzar recognized that there is no god like Daniel’s God. At the end of chapter 3 he made a law that no one was to disrespect their God. How often does our attitude, words, or lifestyle disrespect the God who revealed dreams to Daniel and spared his friends from the fiery furnace. Have we forgotten that we worship the same God they did? May our lives glorify him today rather than disrespect him, as is too often the case. The reputation of our God is on the line every day. May people see Jesus in me today. May he be glorified.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Daniel 2:46 (ESV)

Daniel Is Promoted
[46] Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face and paid homage to Daniel, and commanded that an offering and incense be offered up to him. [47] The king answered and said to Daniel, “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery.” [48] Then the king gave Daniel high honors and many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon. [49] Daniel made a request of the king, and he appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego over the affairs of the province of Babylon. But Daniel remained at the king’s court.

This is not the behavior of a king. In these verses the king falls on his face and showed honor and respect to Daniel. The word translated “homage” is sometimes translated worship. It is the same word used in the next chapter when Daniel’s friends are instructed to worship the golden image. Here is a king on his face before Daniel. This is behavior fitting only for a king or a god, yet the king falls before Daniel.

The wise men and magicians had told the king that, “The thing that the king asks is difficult, and no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh” (Dan 2:11). Yet here is Daniel, a man who apparently hears directly from the gods. Or, as Daniel would say, “There is a God in Heaven who reveals mysteries” (Dan 2:28). God in Heaven is a God who “changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise  and knowledge to those who have understanding” (Dan 2:21).

We celebrate those words: God is a God who “changes times and seasons, he removes kings and sets up kings,” (Dan 2:21). We swear that we believe those words. We cling to those words, yet we often act as though they are not true. We wring our hands at every election. We are filled with anxiety because of the Muslim immigrants moving to our country. We are dazed with fear because of the church shootings. We are an anxious people talking about God, but living as though he did not exist.

Daniel and his friends watched their homes destroyed, and their family and friends killed, and their temple raided. They were dragged off to a foreign country where people speak a foreign language and practice foreign customs. They were threatened, and then trained in a foreign culture. Their names where changed. Their identity was robbed. Their system of worship made impossible. Yet they lived as though they truly believed that God is God of gods, and Lord of kings. We sit in relative peace and prosperity. Even those living in poverty in America are the envy of many in the world. Still, we wring our hands and live as though God were dead, all the while singing, “King of kings and Lord of lords; Glory, Alleluia.” Our words do not match the anxiety of our emotions. There is a disconnect between our tongue and our heart.

It is convicting that a Babylonian king gets that truth better than we do. God is working his purpose and will. He sets up kings and brings them down. The Apostle Paul reminds us that, “There is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Rom 13:1). Daniel understood and believed that. Daniel’s friends understood and believed that. King Nebuchadnezzar understood and believed that. Why don’t we?

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Daniel 1:17-21 (ESV)
[17] As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. [18] At the end of the time, when the king had commanded that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. [19] And the king spoke with them, and among all of them none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Therefore they stood before the king. [20] And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom. [21] And Daniel was there until the first year of King Cyrus.

Jeremiah wrote about the Babylonians, and about how God’s people were to respond to them. He said, “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jer 29:7). This is exactly what Daniel and his friends did. In order to protect their overseer, they offered a test. “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see” (Daniel 1:12-13). They made their overseer look good. When they were presented to the king, they were found to be “…ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom” (Dan 1:20). As a wise man, Daniel stayed in the service of the king “…until the first year of King Cyrus” (Dan 1:21).

Daniel and his friends could easily have worked against the system. They could have served as spies. They could have undermined the king’s authority and influence. They could have functions as subversives, working to bring down the people who destroyed their city. But they didn’t. Following Jeremiah’s instruction, they worked for the welfare of the city into which they had been brought.

Because of our theology (what we believe about God), and our eschatology (what we believe about the end of the world), we have often assumed that this world was unimportant. “It is all going to burn up anyway” (see 1Pet 3:11-13, and Rev 21:1). But that ignores the fact that in the meantime God made us stewards of his creation. That ignores the fact that while it will all burn one day, we do not know when that will be. It ignores his instructions for how we are to live in the meantime. We are often more interested in the politics of our world than we are in goodness, justice, and righteousness. It is more important that we work for the good of the city, country, and people God has placed around us, than that we work to ensure that the right party remains in office. If God loved the world so much that he sent his son to die for it, does that not suggest that we ought to love the world as well?

Yes, I know that John wrote, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1Jn 2:15). But John defined what he meant by the world as, “the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life” (1Jn 2:16). When he wrote that God “so loved the world” (Jn 3:16) he was referring to something different. He was referring to the people of the world. He was referring to his creation. We should never love “the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life,” but we should certainly love the people whom God created in his own image, and the creation he designed for them.

I fear that in our focus on eternity we have failed to understand Jeremiah’s advice. Daniel was to seek the welfare of Babylon. Babylon, throughout the Bible, is considered the seat of evil. This is where the Tower of Babel was first built, yet Daniel was to seek its welfare. How can we do any less? Is it not through works of creation care, justice, and care for the poor and needy that the love of Christ is most evident in us? Is it not through seeking the welfare others that we best demonstrate the character of God? Jesus did not say, “There will always be poor, so don’t worry about them.” He did not say, “They are going to die anyway, don’t worry about the sick.” He did not practice avoidance of sinners in order to stay pure. The people he got truly upset with were not the sinners, but the hypocritical religious elite, the church goers. Jesus loved the poor, cared for the sick, and spent time with sinners. Jesus so loved the world−the broken, lost, sinful world−that he gave his life for it.

God is calling us to love as Jesus loved. He is not calling us to be so heavenly minded that we are of no earthly good. He is calling us to follow Daniel’s lead, and seek the welfare of Babylon. What a challenge! May the mind of Christ and the love of the Father be seen in us each day.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Daniel 1:3-6 (ESV)
[3] Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, [4] youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. [5] The king assigned them a daily portion of the food that the king ate, and of the wine that he drank. They were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king. [6] Among these were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah of the tribe of Judah.

When Jerusalem fell to Babylon, young men were carried away and brought to the king’s palace to be trained. The plan was to turn the cream of the crop from Israel into good Babylonians. They were to be taught the literature and language of the Chaldeans (Babylonians), and given the best food from the king’s portion. They also changed their names. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were to be known as Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Daniel means “God is my judge.” Hananiah’s name means “God has favored.” Mishael means “Who is what God is?” Azariah means “God has helped.” Their names were related to Israel’s God. Their new names were related to different Babylonian or Persian gods.

This is what the enemy always tries to do. When we trusted Christ, the scriptures say that we became new creations, “The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2Cor 5:17). The Enemy wants to change our identity. He wants to rob us of our identity in Christ, and try to convince us that we are no different, that we are unchanged. If he can change our identity, if he can convince us that we are still broken sinners bent toward sin and away from God, then he has undermined our faith. When we believe that we are new creations in Christ, we live as new creations in Christ. When we believe that we cannot help but sin, we quickly give in to sin. Fear only takes us so far.

Understanding our new identity in Christ is foundational to a walk of faith. Babylon tried to change the identity of Israel’s God-worshiping young men. Daniel and his friends refused to accept this new identity. They worked for the good of their captors, as Jeremiah had warned them to do, but they never lost their identity as God’s people. I am convinced that many of our failures as believers is because we do not truly believe that we are new creations in Christ. We do not really believe that the Holy Spirit, who dwells within each of us, is able to keep us from sin. We do not believe that we are crucified with Christ, buried with him, and raised to new life. We believe that we are forgiven. We believe that we will be new a new creation in Christ when we see him. But, we have bought into the Enemies lies as to our identity now. We walk by sight, and not by faith. We fail because we do not believe that we can do anything else.

What kind of life is that for a child of God? With Daniel, we need to resolve that whatever the Enemy calls us, whatever mold the World tries to squeeze us into, we will never forget who we are. We will not defile ourselves with the lies of the World, the Flesh or the Enemy. We are new creatures in Christ and we rest in that truth.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Isaiah 66:18-21 (ESV)
“For I know their works and their thoughts, and the time is coming to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come and shall see my glory, and I will set a sign among them. And from them I will send survivors to the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, who draw the bow, to Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands far away, that have not heard my fame or seen my glory. And they shall declare my glory among the nations. And they shall bring all your brothers from all the nations as an offering to the LORD, on horses and in chariots and in litters and on mules and on dromedaries, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, says the LORD, just as the Israelites bring their grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of the LORD. And some of them also I will take for priests and for Levites, says the LORD.

God’s promise to Abraham was that through him God would bless all the nations of the earth. Being a people of God was never about being Jewish. It was always about faith and humility. As Judah faces deportation because of their sin and disobedience, God, through Isaiah, promises restoration. His restoration is not a restoration of Jewishness, but a restoration of all people to God.

Isaiah 66:21 is telling. “And some of them (the nations) also I will take for priests and for Levites, says the LORD.” How can God take people from the nations and make them priests and Levites? Isn’t that about birthright? Clearly the answer is “No!” God is not as interested in birthright, and ancestry as he is interested in humility and faith. God will call people “from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev 5:9).

This has significant implications for the church. Pentecost (Acts 2) brought together people from a variety of languages and backgrounds. The Church has always brought together as one people those of diverse backgrounds, colors, ethnicities, languages, and cultures. Unfortunately, the local church has not always been as accepting. We are often fearful of those who are different, and accepting of those like us. We often feel comfortable to those of our color, background, interests, and political persuasion.

Within the local church, we feel not only uncomfortable, but too often downright hostile toward those who are unlike us. God forgive us! When we ought to be extending open arms, we are more often welcoming with reservation, accepting with fear and uncertainty, or outright rejecting those who are different. The very Lord we profess would likely have felt very unwelcome in many of our congregations. I fear that we are often more like the Pharisees whom we love to castigate, then like the Lord who we claim to worship.

One day we will see the Church through the eyes of God. One day we will see God use the most unlikely people as priests and Levites. One day we will fall on our faces before God along with those we feared. One day we will embrace and worship with those we held at arm’s length with distrust. Maybe we should start practicing today.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Isaiah 66:2b-3 (ESV)
But this is the one to whom I will look:
he who is humble and contrite in spirit
and trembles at my word.
“He who slaughters an ox is like one who kills a man;
he who sacrifices a lamb, like one who breaks a dog’s neck;
he who presents a grain offering, like one who offers pig’s blood;
he who makes a memorial offering of frankincense, like one who blesses an idol.
These have chosen their own ways,
and their soul delights in their abominations;

Slaughtering an ox, sacrificing a lamb, presenting a grain offering, making a memorial offering of frankincense, these are all acceptable forms of worship according to Jewish Law, so why are they compared to such odious activities as murder, idolatry, and sacrificing dogs and pigs? The point of these verses is the very thing David understood after his sin with Bathsheba.

Psalms 51:16-17 (ESV)
For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

God is not pleased with external obedience if there is no inward brokenness first. Some might call this repentance, but repentance is the change of mind that transitions one from brokenness to faith. David acknowledges that God wants “a broken and contrite heart.” Isaiah says that God is looking for those who are “humble and contrite in spirit.” When James and John asked to be acknowledged as someone great, Jesus responded, “Even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mk 10:45). God is looking for humility and brokenness, not self-confidence and pride.

God’s harsh assessment of their worship is based on his assessment of their lives. “When I called, no one answered, when I spoke, they did not listen; but they did what was evil in my eyes and chose that in which I did not delight” (Is 66:4). We have a tendency to dissect our lives into disconnected segments. We worship on Sunday. We work Monday through Friday. We play on the weekends. We do family in the evenings. But, none of these things connect. How we work, play, or relate to family too often has nothing to do with our worship. There is a disconnect.

For God, all of life is connected. Worship should affect how we work, play, and relate to others. How we work, play, and interact with others clearly affects God’s perspective of our worship. Worship is not a disconnected activity we do. It is the expression of a heart connected to God, and intersecting with life. It cannot be dissected from the rest of life. All of life is worship, or none of it is. There is no in-between. 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Isaiah 65:1-3 (ESV)

I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me.
I said, “Here I am, here I am,”
to a nation that was not called by my name.
I spread out my hands all the day
to a rebellious people,
who walk in a way that is not good,
following their own devices;
a people who provoke me
to my face continually,
 sacrificing in gardens
and making offerings on bricks;

Isaiah 65 is divided into two sections. Verses 1-16 speak judgment and justice. Verses 17-25 speak grace and peace. The first words of the chapter give an amazing context. “I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me; I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me” (Is 65:1). God is not hiding. He is not hard to find. Yet we prefer to create gods in our own image, and our own creation rather than seeking the God who desires to be sought after. We prefer worship by our design rather than asking after a God who is ready to be found. God has only hidden himself from those who do not care to find him. In Jeremiah 29:13 God says, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” The problem is not that God is hidden, but that people do not care to find him.

There are consequences to such an attitude. “But you who forsake the LORD…I will destine you to the sword” (Is 65:11-12). By contrast, those who serve the Lord God will eat, and drink, and “sing for gladness of heart” (Is 65:14). In Deuteronomy 11:26-28 Moses reminded a new generation of Israelis of the covenant God had made with them,

See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you today, and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside from the way that I am commanding you today, to go after other gods that you have not known.

Yet by the time we get to Isaiah they have done the very thing Moses warned them about. In fact, it didn’t take them that long. By the time we get to the book of the Judges they are already doing what Moses warned them against. While all mankind is not under that same covenant, there is a sense in which the same choice lies before each of us. God sets before us a blessing and a curse. The blessing is dependent on seeking a God who desires to be found. The curse is the consequence of choosing our own gods.

The good news is that there is coming a day when
he who blesses himself in the land
shall bless himself by the God of truth,
and he who takes an oath in the land
shall swear by the God of truth;
 because the former troubles are forgotten
and are hidden from my eyes (Is 65:16).
There is coming a day when God will “create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind” (Is 65:17). There is coming a day when God will not need to be sought after or asked for. God will be near, and he promises that “before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear” (Is 65:24). “‘They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,’ says the LORD” (Is 65:25). What a day that will be!

In the meantime, I do not want to be one who blames God for not being able to find him. I do not want to be one who looks around in a cursory manner and says, “Where are you God? I can’t find you,” and then goes on his/her way thinking that it is God’s fault. We argue that if he is real, he has made it too hard to find him. Such is not the case. He is always found by those who want to find him. Finding God is not a command. It is an invitation. If we seek him, we will find him, for he wishes to be found.

Remember the motel advertisement, “We’ll keep the light on for you”? He is the light and it is always on. Further, if we are believers, he has placed us in the world as lights pointing to a God who wishes to be found. I do not want to be one who makes excuses for not finding God. Neither do I want to be one who screens the light from those who are seeking. One never knows who is watching. So, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Mt 5:16).

Friday, October 13, 2017

Isaiah 64:9-12 (ESV)
            and remember not iniquity forever.
Behold, please look, we are all your people.
Your holy cities have become a wilderness;
Zion has become a wilderness,
Jerusalem a desolation.
Our holy and beautiful house,
where our fathers praised you,
has been burned by fire,
and all our pleasant places have become ruins.
Will you restrain yourself at these things, O LORD?
Will you keep silent, and afflict us so terribly?

Isaiah 64 begins by calling for God to return. It reflects on the expressions and revelations of God that Israel experienced in the past. It focuses particularly on their experiences at Mt. Sinai where Moses received the Law. There is no god like God. The chapter then goes on to acknowledge the sin of God’s people. “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” (Is 64:6).

Why would an unclean people want God to return? Wouldn’t they expect that he would return with judgment against them? The answer is found in their acknowledgement of their sin. Those trying to cover up sin would never want God to return. Those blinded to their sin might want God to return, but will be sorely surprised when he does. Those acknowledging their sin can expect him to return with mercy.

Verse 7 admits that they have not even been seeking God. Verse 8 changes everything. “But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand” (Is 64:8). Verse 8 recognizes that God has the right to do whatever he desires. “We are the clay, and you are our potter.” In yielding to him they acknowledge that God has the right judge them, or to make them into a thing of beauty. They then cry out, “Be not so terribly angry, O LORD, and remember not iniquity forever. Behold, please look, we are all your people” (Is 64:9). Their expression of confession, submission, and pleading for mercy will not go unheard.

Isn’t that the gospel? We are not accepted by God, because we have turned over a new leaf. We are not forgiven of our sin because we really didn’t mean to be so bad. We are not saved, and promised eternal life because we promise to be good. We are saved when we acknowledge our sin, admit that God has the right to do whatever he wishes with us (His judgment against us is well deserved), and cast ourselves on the mercy of God. Salvation, forgiveness, acceptance, and eternal life are received as a gift, not as something we deserve or earn.

Why would an unclean people want God to return? Primarily because they have admitted that they are an unclean people, and recognize that their only hope lies in God’s mercy and grace. We are an unclean people. Our church services must sometimes be a stench in God’s nostrils. Our good Christian living must sometimes make God weep. Yet we can plead for his return, not because the world is so evil and we righteous folk want to escape it, but because we sinners know that our only hope is the return of Righteous God who has the right to do with us as he will. We trust in his mercy and grace.

After all the warnings of Revelation, the Apostle John concludes with these words, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen” (Rev 22:20-21). After all the devastation the Israelites will face because of their disobedience, still they continue to sin. Yet Isaiah, admitting their sin, cries out, “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down” (Is 64:1). John and Isaiah both understand that their hope is in the great God of mercy. Amen! Come Lord Jesus. Father, we do not deserve to see your face, but we believe that you will receive us because of Jesus. Come Lord Jesus!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Isaiah 63:15-17 (ESV)

Look down from heaven and see,
from your holy and beautiful habitation.
Where are your zeal and your might?
The stirring of your inner parts and your compassion
are held back from me.
For you are our Father,
though Abraham does not know us,
and Israel does not acknowledge us;
you, O LORD, are our Father,
our Redeemer from of old is your name.
O LORD, why do you make us wander from your ways
and harden our heart, so that we fear you not?
Return for the sake of your servants,
the tribes of your heritage.

The last part of Isaiah 63 is a cry for mercy. It is a call for help that goes on into the next chapter. It is a rather self-focused and na├»ve cry. “Where are your zeal and your might?” (Is 63:15). Where are they indeed? The first part of the chapter tells us the answer? The zeal and might of the LORD has been pouring out judgment against the world. “I trampled down the peoples in my anger; I made them drunk in my wrath, and I poured out their lifeblood on the earth” (Is 63:6). At the same time, the LORD has been protecting his people in mercy and covenantal love. “I will recount the steadfast love of the LORD…that he has granted them according to his compassion,
according to the abundance of his steadfast love” (Is 63:7). Yet despite his love and protection, “They rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit” (Is 6:10).

Where is God indeed? He felt every pain of their anguish. “In their affliction He was afflicted” (Is 63:9). He guarded them, protected them, provided for them, and judged their enemies. Yet they failed to recognize his steadfast love, walk in his ways, embrace his passion for holiness, or honor him as God. And when things got hard they had the audacity to cry out, “Where is God?”

Certainly, sometimes bad things happen simply because we live in a broken, fallen world. Sometimes bad things happen because we fail to honor God as God. Either way, where we fail first is that we do not recognize his steadfast, faithful love. We neglect to recognize the blessings he has surrounded us with. We take our freedoms, our wealth, our privilege, and our comfort for granted, and complain at the least little discomfort in life.

This reminds me of Hebrews 11:35-38
Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy— wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

“In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood” (Heb 12:4). And still we complain. Perhaps we should take a day to focus on the blessings of God rather than the difficulties of life. What if, for just 24 hours, we made every breath a prayer of gratitude? How might that change our perspective? What if we looked for two blessings for every difficulty we encounter? How might that change our attitude? What if we became people of gratitude rather than chronic complainers? How might that change our walk with God. Why don’t you give it a try today?

Reflections on Psalms 77-78

Psalms 77:7 (ESV) [7] “Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable?   The first nine verses of this psalm express abso...