The Prosperity Gospel in the Old Testament

1Then Bildad the Shuhite replied to Job:

2“How long will you go on like this? Your words are a blustering wind. 3Does God twist justice? Does the Almighty twist what is right? 4Your children obviously sinned against him, so their punishment was well deserved. 5But if you pray to God and seek the favor of the Almighty, 6if you are pure and live with complete integrity, he will rise up and restore your happy home. 7And though you started with little, you will end with much. (Job 8:1-7, NLT)


The book of Job is considered to be one of the earliest books of the entire Bible.

If you’re not familiar with the book, it’s essentially 40+ chapters of dialogue and discourse about the nature of God, particularly as it relates to His attribute of justice.

In the first two chapters we find Job, a righteous man, experience extreme, unspeakable hardships and tragedy as the Lord allows Satan to test Job’s faith and his character. Satan’s assertion is that the only reason Job is righteous is because he has everything he needs and wants. Satan contends that if pressured, Job would certainly curse God.

The whole premise of the book is interesting as it deals with the question of character and true devotion. Is a person considered righteous because of what he has (and does), or is he righteous because of who he is?

So God allows Job to experience hardship and tragedy. The rest of the book is a series of discourses  as Job repeatedly expresses his pain and anguish while his friends take turns lecturing him on why he should repent of the hidden sin that must’ve been the cause of his calamity.

In chapter 8, Bildad the Shuhite weighs in with his take on Job’s situation. What’s interesting about Job’s friends is that their understanding of God and His character, particularly His attribute of justice, is wrong in different ways. Interestingly, their theological errors are still being promoted today in many modern day false gospels. Here Bildad espouses a view that clearly is the forerunner to what today is known as “prosperity theology”.

Prosperity theology basically teaches that if you follow the rules (do good), you will be blessed. If you don’t follow the rules, then calamity will ensue.

Bildad’s prosperity theology can be seen most clearly in verse 4, where he says that bad things are the result of sin, as well as verse 7, where he contends that seeking God’s favor results in “much”.

Bildad’s argument can be summed up as follows

1. God is just

2. God doesn’t punish just people

3. Job is obviously being punished. Therefore, Job must be unjust

Bildad understood that God is just but misunderstood how God’s justice is applied. Specifically, he thought God’s justice was always applied in the way outlined above.

In addition, Bildad assumes that anything bad that happens to a person is a result of God’s punishment, and the punishment is a result of sin. This is false.

The truth is that bad things often happen to good people but it doesn’t mean that they are being punished because of some secret sin.

Prosperity theology is popular with people because it gives a quick and easy formula to explain all the bad things that happen to us. But prosperity theology fails because God is not a formula. He’s an infinitely complex being whose ways are ultimately mysterious and beyond our comprehension. If you keep reading the rest of the book of Job, you’ll see how this becomes more clear throughout the book.

Reflection

In what ways have you tended to embrace Bildad’s prosperity theology as an accurate description of how God metes out justice?

If you were Bildad, how would you change what you say to Job to more closely match the true nature of God’s justice?

 

Photo by Sora Shimazaki from Pexels

Why Did God Forbid This One Fruit?

1Now the serpent was the shrewdest of all the creatures the LORD God had made. “Really?” he asked the woman. “Did God really say you must not eat any of the fruit in the garden?”

2“Of course we may eat it,” the woman told him. 3“It’s only the fruit from the tree at the center of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God says we must not eat it or even touch it, or we will die.”

4“You won’t die!” the serpent hissed. 5“God knows that your eyes will be opened when you eat it. You will become just like God, knowing everything, both good and evil.”

6The woman was convinced. The fruit looked so fresh and delicious, and it would make her so wise! So she ate some of the fruit. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her. Then he ate it, too. 7At that moment, their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they strung fig leaves together around their hips to cover themselves. (Genesis 3:1-6)


Genesis 3 is a pivotal chapter in the overall narrative of the Bible. It’s the chapter that most people refer to as “The Fall”.

In this chapter, we see the devil, in the form of a serpent, questioning Eve about the forbidden fruit.

The first thing to note here is that the nature of this forbidden fruit is not described. This fruit is sometimes thought to be, or assumed to be an apple. For example, the Apple logo, according to culturecreature.com, is a symbol for knowledge. But nowhere in this text does it say or give any indication that the fruit is an apple. Therefore, to say that an apple is a biblical symbol of knowledge is a misrepresentation of the text.

The devil’s tactic is to get Eve to doubt God’s goodness; to see this restriction as an indication that God is somehow holding out on Adam and Eve. He does this by telling Eve that eating the fruit would not result in death, as God had said, but instead would result in their eyes being opened and knowing good and evil for themselves.

What Satan says is partially true. He often will wrap a lie up inside a partial truth so that we won’t recognize the lie.

The truth in the statement is that their eyes would be opened. They would recognize their condition…that they were naked.

The lie is that they would become like God, knowing everything. Of course they wouldn’t know everything and they wouldn’t know good and evil.

Have you ever wondered why God made this particular fruit forbidden? Was it just random chance or was there a reason that this particular fruit was off limits? Why was it a sin? Was it only sinful because God made it off limits or was it sinful for another reason?

I believe there is a deeper truth at play that accounts for why God forbade this particular fruit.

Eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was sinful because before this, Adam and Eve were completely dependent on God to know what was good and what was evil. Eating the fruit was desirous because, according to Satan, they would no longer need God to determine good and evil. They could determine good and evil for themselves. That was the lie.

God has designed us in such a way that He wants us to depend on Him for moral guidance. It is God who decides what is right and what is wrong. By following Him and trusting Him, we align ourselves with HIs moral code and values.

But the temptation of Adam and Eve, and the temptation we face every day, is to decide for ourselves what is right and what is wrong, thereby, forsaking God, and making ourselves god, at least as it relates to moral authority.

This scenario of people rejecting God and His moral values in favor of their own moral values has continued through history and is still alive today.

Every time we reject a biblical command or a moral standard as outlined in the Bible because we don’t like it, or because we think it’s no longer relevant to us or because we think God is being too restrictive, we are following Eve’s and Adam’s example of grabbing the fruit and taking a bite. It was sinful because it was an act of rejecting God’s role as the moral authority of the universe in favor of making oneself the moral authority.  We still do this today and it is still sinful.

Reflection

What modern examples come to mind of people rejecting God as the authority of good and evil in favor of their own ideas of what’s good and what’s evil?

In what ways are you tempted to reject God’s moral authority (as outlined in the Bible) in favor of your own preferred moral values?

What would need to change in terms of your views or lifestyle in order to completely align with God’s standards of good and evil?

If you are a person who has always thought of the forbidden fruit as an apple, why do you think you thought that when the text never says that it is an apple?

 

Photo by Gabriele Lässer on Unsplash

Is it Possible to Cheat God?

6“I am the LORD, and I do not change. That is why you descendants of Jacob are not already completely destroyed. 7Ever since the days of your ancestors, you have scorned my laws and failed to obey them. Now return to me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD Almighty.

“But you ask, ‘How can we return when we have never gone away?’

8“Should people cheat God? Yet you have cheated me!

“But you ask, ‘What do you mean? When did we ever cheat you?’

“You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me.  9You are under a curse, for your whole nation has been cheating me.  10Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the LORD Almighty, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Let me prove it to you!  11Your crops will be abundant, for I will guard them from insects and disease. Your grapes will not shrivel before they are ripe,” says the LORD Almighty.  12“Then all nations will call you blessed, for your land will be such a delight,” says the LORD Almighty. (Malachi 3:6-12, NLT)


If you’ve ever been to a church and heard a sermon on tithing, you have probably heard this passage preached.

Malachi was a prophet who lived about 400 years before the time of Christ. He wrote to Jews who had very recently returned from being in exile (taken captive by the Babylonian empire).

Malachi was rebuking the people for their neglect of the temple. In this passage, he specifically addresses the people for their neglect of the tithe.

What is the tithe?

The word tithe literally means a tenth. When the Israelites entered the promised land of Canaan, every tribe was alotted an area of land as an inheritance , except for the Levites. The Levites were the tribe of Moses and his brother Aaron. The Levites were commissioned by God to be the priests who would lead worship and administer the temple sacrifices and act as mediators between the Lord and the people.

Because the Levites had no land, and their job was essentially religious clergy, they had no means of sustaining themselves. The tithe was implemented to take care of the Levites, who in turn were responsible for caring for the spiritual needs of the people.

When the Jewish people neglected the tithes, the Levites were forced to care for themselves in other ways and with other jobs. Therefore, the duties of the temple were neglected. It is in this way that the Lord is saying that the people had cheated Him. Because the tithes weren’t given, the priestly duties were neglected and therefore God was robbed of the worship that is rightly His.

It’s important to realize that the tithe wasn’t just money. It could be grain or some other portion of a harvest. This is why the author mentions the storehouse. The storehouse was a physical room in the temple that was used for storing the grain and other produce that the people brought into the temple as part of their tithe.

The principle of the tithe is still valid in the church today. Essentially, the Lord is asking His people, as an act of faith and worship, to give back to Him a portion of what He has given to us.

When we give a tithe, we are expressing to the Lord that we acknowledge that everything we have comes from Him. We also are trusting that He is able to sustain us on the portion that is left over.

In this passage, The Lord invites us to test Him. He says that if we give to Him the first fruits of our labor, He will richly bless us and the balance of our resources will be more than enough to provide for us.

This sounds counter-intuitive to our finite minds. It seems logical to us that if we keep all of our resources, we will have more wealth to spend and invest. But in God’s economy, He promises that if we give to Him first, we will actually end up with more because He will bless the balance of our resources and we will see a greater return on that smaller portion than if we had kept the whole for ourselves.

Reflection

What role has tithing played in your own spiritual life? How have you been able to integrate tithing (giving) into your spiritual practice?

If you have struggled to implement tithing as a spiritual practice, what are the factors that keep you from taking that step of faith? What experiences with the Lord can you draw upon in order to help you take a small step of faith?

 

Photo by Istiqamatunnisak on Unsplash

The Most Important Question to Ask Yourself

27Jesus and his disciples left Galilee and went up to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. As they were walking along, he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”

28“Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say you are one of the other prophets.”

29Then Jesus asked, “Who do you say I am?”

Peter replied, “You are the Messiah.” 30But Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him. (Mark 8:27-30, NLT)


For the first half of the book of Mark, Jesus is revealing to His disciples WHO he is. He’s exposed his disciples to his teachings and many miracles, in which he demonstrates his power over nature, the physical realm and the spiritual realm. In Mark 8:27, Jesus asks the important question, “Who do people say I am?”

He follows up with an even more crucially important question: “Who do YOU say I am?”

When we’re engaging with others who don’t consider themselves followers of Jesus, it’s critically important that we help them come to a Biblical understanding of WHO Jesus is.

In Mark 8:28, Peter says that the main responses people often have about Jesus are “John the Baptist or Elijah, or one of the other prophets.”

People today have a lot of similar ideas about who Jesus is. Some say he’s a good teacher. Some say he’s a prophet. Still others say he’s a great moral example to follow.

These do not hit the mark. Peter gives the proper response regarding who Jesus is….He is the Messiah (or “the Christ”).

The most important question you can ask yourself (or others)?

Who is Jesus?

As we engage with others regarding the Christian faith, we have to help people come to this understanding of Jesus’s identity. He is not merely a prophet. He is not just a good person or some moral example to follow.

He is God. He is the promised Messiah (the promised deliverer)!

 

For more information on the Biblical evidence for Jesus’ deity, see my short article “Is Jesus God?”

Photo by Gift Habeshaw on Unsplash

Don’t Put Confidence in Powerful People!

Psalm 146

1Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, I tell myself.

2I will praise the LORD as long as I live. I will sing praises to my God even with my dying breath.

3Don’t put your confidence in powerful people; there is no help for you there.

4When their breathing stops, they return to the earth, and in a moment all their plans come to an end.

5But happy are those who have the God of Israel as their helper, whose hope is in the LORD their God.

6He is the one who made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them. He is the one who keeps every promise forever,

7who gives justice to the oppressed and food to the hungry. The LORD frees the prisoners.

8The LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts the burdens of those bent beneath their loads.The LORD loves the righteous.

9The LORD protects the foreigners among us. He cares for the orphans and widows, but he frustrates the plans of the wicked.

10The LORD will reign forever. O Jerusalem, your God is King in every generation! Praise the LORD! (Psalm 146:1-10, NLT)


We live in perhaps one of the most polarized times in the history of our country. Wherever you may align yourself on the political spectrum, it’s easy to think that all of the problems in our country could be solved if everyone agreed with our views and our solutions.

By extension, we can be fooled into thinking that if people who align with our political persuasions can come to power, things would be much better off.

The truth is, as the psalmist says in verse 3, the people who are in positions of authority really have no power to effect lasting change. Why? They are mortal. Being mortal doesn’t just mean that they are subject to death but it also means they are susceptible to all of the vices that mortals are susceptible to – greed, power, corruption, and pursuing their own self-interests.

This is not to say that people cannot effect change or that we shouldn’t give careful thought to who we vote for public office. There is no doubt that the right people can make a huge difference in our communities.

But we shouldn’t put our confidence in them because ultimately, they cannot help. Only the Lord can. Only the Lord ALWAYS keeps his promises. He is righteous and just and he is concerned for the orphan, the widow, the poor and oppressed.

In addition, only the Lord can meet our deepest spiritual needs. And because He is the eternal King, we can ALWAYS depend on him. Political parties are always changing, which means that the perspectives, approaches and solutions to the issues of the day are constantly shifting as well. But God is eternal. He never changes and He doesn’t change His opinion or His approach.

Thus, the psalmist can say, “He is King in every generation!”

Amen!

Reflection

In what ways can you tend to trust in politicians and people of power to effect change?

While still being politically active and responsible, how can you ensure that your ultimate trust is in the Lord and not people?

 

Photo by Cameron Smith on Unsplash

 

Jesus Casts out a Legion of Demons

1So they arrived at the other side of the lake, in the land of the Gerasenes.  2Just as Jesus was climbing from the boat, a man possessed by an evil spirit ran out from a cemetery to meet him.  3This man lived among the tombs and could not be restrained, even with a chain.  4Whenever he was put into chains and shackles—as he often was—he snapped the chains from his wrists and smashed the shackles. No one was strong enough to control him. 5All day long and throughout the night, he would wander among the tombs and in the hills, screaming and hitting himself with stones.  6When Jesus was still some distance away, the man saw him. He ran to meet Jesus and fell down before him.  7He gave a terrible scream, shrieking, “Why are you bothering me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? For God’s sake, don’t torture me!”  8For Jesus had already said to the spirit, “Come out of the man, you evil spirit.”

9Then Jesus asked, “What is your name?”

And the spirit replied, “Legion, because there are many of us here inside this man.”  10Then the spirits begged him again and again not to send them to some distant place.  11There happened to be a large herd of pigs feeding on the hillside nearby.  12“Send us into those pigs,” the evil spirits begged. 13Jesus gave them permission. So the evil spirits came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the entire herd of two thousand pigs plunged down the steep hillside into the lake, where they drowned.  14The herdsmen fled to the nearby city and the surrounding countryside, spreading the news as they ran. Everyone rushed out to see for themselves.  15A crowd soon gathered around Jesus, but they were frightened when they saw the man who had been demon possessed, for he was sitting there fully clothed and perfectly sane.  16Those who had seen what happened to the man and to the pigs told everyone about it,  17and the crowd began pleading with Jesus to go away and leave them alone. (Mark 5:1-17, NLT)


Once again, we see Jesus demonstrating His omnipotence to the masses and to his disciples. Jesus’ many miracles were meant to demonstrate His power and authority over the natural world (calming a storm), the physical world (healing sickness), the spiritual world (casting out demons) and even death itself (bringing back someone who had died).

When reading this passage, one might conclude that the point of the passage is simply to once again show Jesus’ authority over the spiritual realm. While this is true, I think there’s another, often overlooked aspect to this passage. It’s found in verse 11, which says,

“there happened to be a large herd of pigs feeding on the hillside nearby.”

Now if you know anything about Jewish laws and regulations, you know that pigs were considered unclean animals. Jews were not allowed to eat pigs; they weren’t even allowed to touch them.

So what are pigs doing in the story?

Though not explicitly stated, it’s obvious that Jesus is ministering in an area that is not Jewish, hence the presence of pigs.

Jesus crossed over into another culture. Jesus went to a place that would have been uncomfortable to Jews and he healed a man who likely was not Jewish. Now this is not explicitly stated but it is inferred from the text. Because of the clear presence of pigs, we know that Jesus and his disciples were in a Gentile area. We can infer that the man Jesus healed also was likely Gentile.

What I find interesting about this is that even though Jesus clearly indicated through ministry encounters like this one (and others) that he was concerned about all peoples, not just Jews, the disciples did not immediately comprehend this aspect of the gospel message, as indicated by Peter’s need for a direct vision from God in Acts 10 to help him understand that Gentiles are not to be thought of as unclean and unworthy of salvation.

If these 12 men, who were actually with Jesus, could be slow to understand basic truths about the Lord and His plans and purposes, I wonder how much of my thinking may actually be wrong or incomplete.

This is not an invitation to question all our beliefs, particularly those that are solidly grounded in Scripture. However, we all have some beliefs that may not be as grounded in Scripture as we think. Perhaps they are rooted more in our own church, cultural or even family traditions. The invitation, I think, is to keep learning, knowing that I have biases and blind spots and that in my finiteness, I struggle to know God completely as He is. Therefore, there is always room to grow in my understanding and comprehension of God and His nature.

I’m also challenged by the notion that Jesus went to places that were uncomfortable and considered off limits by the culture of his time.

I’m not apt to move too far out of my comfort zone and I’m not always motivated to move toward those who are different. But Jesus’ actions in this passage clearly demonstrate his love and commitment for those who don’t fit my cultural norms and preferences.


Reflection

When is a time you were challenged in your understanding about God – his nature and His purposes? What was it that challenged these beliefs?

How can you ensure that the things you believe about God and salvation are rooted in truth and not just some traditional or cultural view that you’re holding on to?

What steps can you take to move out of your comfort zone as Jesus did in this passage?

 

Photo by David Cashbaugh on Unsplash

Building a New Temple

The Dome of the Rock sits on the site where the Jewish Temple once stood and where some religious leaders expect a new temple to some day be built.
Photo by Dave Lowe

4Come to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by the people, but he is precious to God who chose him.

5And now God is building you, as living stones, into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are God’s holy priests, who offer the spiritual sacrifices that please him because of Jesus Christ.  6As the Scriptures express it,

“I am placing a stone in Jerusalem, a chosen cornerstone, and anyone who believes in him will never be disappointed.”

(1 Peter 2:4-6, NLT)


In this passage, Peter uses imagery of the temple, which would have been very familiar to his audience.

In the Old Testament, the temple was a place – a building made with stones, where God was worshiped.

Here Peter says that you, as Christians, are being built into a new temple, with Jesus as the cornerstone.

In masonry, the cornerstone is the most important stone in the building of a structure. The cornerstone is foundational. All other stones are set in reference to the cornerstone.

Peter is saying that God is building a new temple that’s not a physical temple, but a spiritual temple. It’s not made with physical stones but instead, it consists of spiritual stones made up of people. Jesus is the foundational stone and those who follow Jesus are the stones God is using to build this new spiritual temple.

The implications of what Peter is sharing are huge.  Instead of going to a place to worship God, you can worship God all the time, with your life, since you are the temple and God is with you all the time.

Additionally, in the Old Testament, the priest was integral to the act of worship. The priest administered the sacrifices on behalf of the worshiper.

Now that Christ has come, you are the priest. A mediator is no longer necessary.

Verse 5 says that we offer spiritual sacrifices that please him.

What are those sacrifices?

Our lives are the sacrifices. Go, therefore, and worship the Lord with your life!

Reflection

In your view, what does it mean to worship God and what is the way in which a person worships God?

Does your religious tradition utilize a priest? If so, what is your response to Peter’s assertion that you, as a follower of Christ, are a holy priest who offers spiritual sacrifices to God?

In what ways can you offer up your life to God as a spiritual sacrifice?

A Pivotal Council in the Early Church

While Paul and Barnabas were at Antioch of Syria, some men from Judea arrived and began to teach the Christians: “Unless you keep the ancient Jewish custom of circumcision taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.”  2Paul and Barnabas, disagreeing with them, argued forcefully and at length. Finally, Paul and Barnabas were sent to Jerusalem, accompanied by some local believers, to talk to the apostles and elders about this question.  3The church sent the delegates to Jerusalem, and they stopped along the way in Phoenicia and Samaria to visit the believers. They told them—much to everyone’s joy—that the Gentiles, too, were being converted.  4When they arrived in Jerusalem, Paul and Barnabas were welcomed by the whole church, including the apostles and elders. They reported on what God had been doing through their ministry.  5But then some of the men who had been Pharisees before their conversion stood up and declared that all Gentile converts must be circumcised and be required to follow the law of Moses.  6So the apostles and church elders got together to decide this question.  7At the meeting, after a long discussion, Peter stood and addressed them as follows: “Brothers, you all know that God chose me from among you some time ago to preach to the Gentiles so that they could hear the Good News and believe.  8God, who knows people’s hearts, confirmed that he accepts Gentiles by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he gave him to us.  9He made no distinction between us and them, for he also cleansed their hearts through faith.  10Why are you now questioning God’s way by burdening the Gentile believers with a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors were able to bear?  11We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the special favor of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 15:1-11, NLT)


Acts 15 is perhaps the most important chapter in the entire book of Acts because it highlights an important dispute that arose in the early church.

The issue wasn’t just about the rite of circumcision. At issue was what was necessary to be saved. The dispute seemed to be led by some Pharisees who had been converted (see verse 5). These men believed that salvation was for the Jews and therefore, they believed that the only way a Gentile could become saved was to convert to Judaism. This meant adopting Jewish customs, including observance of the law.

Circumcision was really an outward representation that a person had converted to Judaism. So when these men from Judea began teaching that Gentiles needed to be circumcised in order to be saved, what they were really asserting was that Gentiles needed to become culturally Jewish before they could accept the Jewish Messiah.

So the question became: can Jesus save non-Jews, or do Gentiles need to adopt Jewish culture and become Jews before they can be saved by the Messiah?

Paul and Barnabas argued that Gentiles didn’t need to adopt Jewish customs, including circumcision, but only needed to receive Jesus by faith in order to be saved.

Peter also advocated for this position as he recalled his experience with Cornelius, the Roman centurion in Acts 10. Peter noted that Cornelius and his family, all Gentiles, had received the Holy Spirit just as the Jews had, on the basis of faith alone.

All of the church leaders agreed. The issue was settled, and from that point on, it was clear that the Jewish Messiah was not just for Jews but for all the peoples of the world. And more importantly, it was clear that the only requirement to receive the Jewish Messiah was faith. It was not necessary to become culturally Jewish.

There are important implications for us today as we seek to share Jesus with a dying world. The principle here is that we are to present Jesus to people and not our culture. Sometimes, it’s easy to conflate the two. People need Jesus. They don’t need my culturalized version of Jesus.

Reflection

In what ways has your culture influenced your view and understanding of Jesus? 

How can you ensure that when you share Jesus with others you are not taking a Pharisaical approach – injecting cultural requirements into the gospel message?

 

 

A Covid Cave Prayer!

Psalm 142

A psalm of David, regarding his experience in the cave. A prayer.

1I cry out to the LORD; I plead for the LORD’s mercy.

2I pour out my complaints before him and tell him all my troubles.

3For I am overwhelmed, and you alone know the way I should turn. Wherever I go, my enemies have set traps for me.

4I look for someone to come and help me, but no one gives me a passing thought! No one will help me; no one cares a bit what happens to me.

5Then I pray to you, O LORD. I say, “You are my place of refuge. You are all I really want in life.

6Hear my cry, for I am very low. Rescue me from my persecutors, for they are too strong for me.

7Bring me out of prison so I can thank you. The godly will crowd around me, for you treat me kindly.” (Psalm 142, NLT)

 

Like many people in our country, my wife and I have been locked down at home during this pandemic. We’re working from home, we don’t go out much and besides virtual meetings, we’re pretty much disconnected physically from others.

Our home has been what I call our “Covid Cave.”

Psalm 142 is a psalm of David when he was on the run and in hiding from Saul, who wanted to kill him. This psalm was of particular interest to me because he’s writing about his experience hiding out in a cave.

It’s not likely that the circumstances of your experience mirror David’s. Most of us don’t have enemies chasing us and wanting to kill us. And even though I’ve jokingly referred to my home as a “cave”, I at least have a working toilet, running water and internet streaming services, none of which David enjoyed in his situation.

Still, the circumstances surrounding this pandemic have been mentally traumatizing for many, and the resultant emotions may be similar to David’s. Just look at how David describes his situation:

He felt overwhelmed (Verse 3).

He felt trapped (Verse 3).

He felt disconnected and isolated from others (Verse 4).

He felt helpless…like nobody cared about him (Verse 4).

He felt like his life situation was too strong for him (Verse 6).

He felt imprisoned (Verse 7).

Can you resonate with these emotions? If so, you’re not alone.

How did David deal with these emotions?

First of all, David recognized his utter dependence and need for the Lord. He cried out to the Lord. He pleaded with Him for mercy. He poured out his complaints and told Him his troubles.

Secondly, David recognized that the Lord is the only one to whom he could truly turn. He recognized that the Lord alone is his refuge and the only person that he really wants or needs in life.

Who knows how much longer we will be in this situation. Hopefully, things will turn around soon. Until things change though, and life returns to some sense of normalcy, I echo David’s prayer to the Lord that He would bring me out of prison so I can thank Him!

Reflection

What personal struggles have you experienced during this pandemic?

What emotions have these struggles produced in you?

How can David’s “Cave Prayer” help you during your “Covid Cave” experience?

 

Photo by Ksenia Kudelkina on Unsplash

The Beginning of the Gospel?

1The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  2It is written in Isaiah the prophet:

“I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way”—

3“a voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’”

4And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  5The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.  6John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.  7And this was his message: “After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.  8I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (Mark 1:1-8, NLT)

The beginning of Mark is different than most of the other gospel books. The first words are “the beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ.”

What I find interesting about this statement is that Mark starts off stating that the gospel is about Jesus Christ but then he immediately shifts to some Old Testament passage in Isaiah, followed by a description of John the Baptist, a fiery preacher who lived out in the desert, wore weird clothes and baptized people in the Jordan river.

If the gospel is about Jesus and Mark’s book is about the beginning of the gospel, why is it that we don’t see or hear anything about Jesus until halfway through the first chapter (verse 9)?

I think what Mark’s account demonstrates is that Jesus is the center of the gospel story but he’s not the whole story. The Isaiah passage along with the verses describing John the Baptist indicates that God is always working behind the scenes and preparing people for the arrival of Jesus.

The gospel is indeed about Jesus. He’s the central figure. Without Jesus, there is no good news. But even before Jesus shows up, God is working, paving the way and preparing people’s hearts for the arrival of the king!

Reflection

In what ways did God prepare you for the arrival of Jesus in your life? Who are the key people and what are the key situations that paved the way for you to recognize the king?

What are some ways you can be involved in being a gospel-paver for others?