By Still Waters I

Numbers, Math, Inequalities and Salvation

Numbers are not a small component of the Bible. Verses are marked by numbers. And within the inspired Script, we see numbers revealing truths of God. The first numbers we might think of are “6” and “7”: there were six days of creation and one day to rest: the seventh. As we read on in Genesis, we are made very aware of the fact that a marriage is between just 2 people: a man and a woman. Farther on, God commands Noah to take into the ark with him pairs of animals – 2 by 2, and groups of 7 clean animals for sacrifices. And what child (and adult) is not amazed at the number of years of life given to the saints of old, the most famous being Methuselah: 969 years!!!  In the days of the freed children of Israel, God designates a specific schedule, numbers of days and numbers of years, that His people were to follow when performing commanded duties and sacrifices. By the Psalmist, we are called to realize that our days are numbered (Psalm 90). In the New Testament, Jesus chooses 12 men to be His disciples.  The number 3 shows up again and again in the Scriptures: 3 sons of Noah, 3 visitors to Abraham and Sara, 3 crucified together, 3 days in the grave, etc. Numbers in the Scriptures are worth pondering, and there are those who study them and offer perspectives, some more helpful than others. However, there is one truth about the numbers found in the Holy Scriptures we can all understand without being a Biblical numerologist.  And here is where we need to use a mathematical equation, but the answer to this math equation is a blessed inequality!

I have been teaching math for several years. As all my students will tell you, I fundamentally want to see one thing: the right answer to a math problem. I teach my students that equations must add up, things have to be equal. And this makes sense, because math is a God-created form of logically communicating information, and yes, God is a God of order, so things SHOULD add up.  The world could not exist if there was no mathematical order. Planets would crash into each other, recipes would flop, buildings would fall down, cars would not run, etc. But, still, there is something about some numbers in the Scriptures that seems out of order and doesn’t add up.  But it is right. And it is good. And it is mysterious. And it is grace.

God says that the wages of sin is death. We could write it this way: Sin = death. So far, things do look pretty equal. To make this look like an algebraic statement, we could write: A = B, where A is a man who has sinned, and B is the consequence. We can accept that. A person is responsible for their own sin, and they deserve the consequence they get. Where things start to look unbalanced and not equal is when we read words like: “As the Father knows me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice…” John 10:15,16. Here, we read of a repeated theme in Scripture. Jesus laying down His life for His sheep. We are first introduced to this blessed theme in the garden after the fall. Then later, we watch with amazement as God provides a lamb instead of Isaac for the sacrifice on the mountain. And we are reminded again and again of our atonement as we read of the substitutionary sin offerings in the OT ceremonial law. Then, with grief, we read of the actual atonement for our sins, the crucifixion of our Lord, dying for our sins. Is this equal? Don’t I, not Jesus, deserve God’s wrath? How is this equal? And how is it that the Holy One, Who knew no sin, became sin for ME, who was “conceived and born in sin?” Psalm 51. This is not equal. But the wonder of this inequality has not exhausted itself. Not only did Jesus die for ME, but for the rest of all His sheep, a countless multitude. Since when did the sins of a countless multitude (We’ll call it CM in our equation.) equal the death of ONE Man (We’ll call this side of the equation OM.): CM = OM?  And this One Man being perfectly Holy, and sinless? This is a great inequality!! How does one explain this imbalance – especially in a world that is created to thrive on order? Here is where the Glory of God shines!! Here is where we learn of the unimaginable Love and Mercy, and the unfathomable Wonder and Mystery of God! God, who requires death for sin, became sin for us – all His sheep – and fulfills the death penalty for our sin. One Man dying for the sins of many! Glory be to God! Amazing grace, how sweet the sound! Praise God for this Holy inequality!

Lamb image credit: Gabrielle Agrille on Unsplash.com

Mountain scene image credit: Yoal Desurmont on Unsplash.com

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Numbers, Math, Inequalities and Salvation

Aside
By Still Waters I

All-In

There are certain accounts in the Scriptures that leave us in awe. I am talking specifically about the recorded decisions and choices of the people of God as they followed the Lord – the all-out choices they made because they completely understood (and lived out this understanding) that all that they had, and were, belonged to the Lord. These people were all-in; and they were blessed to be brought to this reality. They were given eyes to see what is not seen. They LOVED the Lord. They would do and say ANYTHING that showed that they were His and that they trusted Him. We have read these accounts so often, and know them so well, that perhaps we haven’t stopped to put ourselves in the shoes (or sandals, as it were) of these saints.

There was Abraham. God told him to leave EVERYTHING, and move to a new land. Abraham was man of great possessions. How hard was it to move all that he had, including family and staff, to a new land? It must have taken great effort, and time, and incurred unique challenges. But he went. And then there were the parents of Moses. They were all-in. They refused to kill baby Moses, disobeying Pharoah’s command. And how about those faithful midwives who refused to expose Mose’s newborn existence? They were all-in. Daniel openly prayed to God every day, breaking the law of the land at the risk of his life. And he and his friends refused to bow to the false god set up in their town knowing the consequence would be the deadly fiery furnace. Ruth left her heathen gods, and therefore also her blood family, to follow Jehovah, the one true God, in a new land. The prophets who foretold Israel’s (the OT church) punishment and demise because they refused to obey and follow God, kept up their prophesying though it brought much persecution to them – from the church. Then there was Anna. The widow who spent her entire widowed life in the temple – praying day and night for the coming of the Savior. And one of my favorite passages in Scripture describes the One Who Gave His All, because He was All-In,

“And it came to pass, when the time was come that He should be received up, He stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem,” Luke 9:51.

These words describe Jesus’ heart, soul, and mind regarding His impending crucifixion. He was determined to fulfill His purpose on earth – to save those that God, His Father, gave Him to save. And He fulfilled it. And it is our risen and ascended Lord’s grace and power we see in the saints of the New Testament church as they join the cloud of Old Testament witnesses who were all-in – the apostles who refused to stop preaching about Jesus; Stephen, who gazed with joy upon the face of His Lord as the killing rocks and stones broke his body; Paul, who did not account his life to be his own, but poured himself out for the church and the gospel:

“…in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.” 2 Corinthian 11:23-28.

And then there is the poor widow at the temple. Jesus watched her put money in the treasury. She puts in everything she has. It was her living. She had two coins and could have kept at least one – or not even given anything at all. But, no, she put in both. Her two mites clinked on top of an abundance of coins that had just been tossed in by some rich temple goers. Jesus says to his disciples:

“Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.” Mark 12:43,44.

This woman was all-in.

When Jesus says, “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”, He means it. The life of a believer is a life of self-denial. He is not demanding a part of us. He is demanding all, because all belongs to Him. Let us pray to God that He will conform us more and more to the image of His Son – He Who set His face steadfastly toward Jerusalem and, indeed, gave all.

All

Aside
By Still Waters I

The door to the New Year is almost fully open. If the Lord allows us to step through it, we will be given more seconds, minutes, perhaps days, to be more and more conformed into the image of His Son in 2019. What does that image look like, how does this flesh and blood image live? What are its thoughts and words? Immersion and instruction in the Scriptures through the guidance and indwelling of the Holy Spirit reveals to the child of God many descriptions of this image and causes us to desire to bear that image, for the Glory of God:

Galatians 5 – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance;

1 Corinthians 13 – Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

Romans 12 – Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.

These are the Scriptures that may come to mind more readily than others. But we must search the Scriptures to find other golden nuggets of the image of God that we are to emulate. And in all of our searching in His Word, remember this, just as we are to be conformed to the image of His Son, so it must be done from a desire to be God-centered – for God’s glory, not for our glory. I heard two descriptions of men recently, “God-centered” and “Me-centered”. These two biblical descriptions made me think. Which one am I? I quickly came to the conclusion that, I, more than not, tend to be a Me-centered person. I may start out in a situation wanting to be God-centered, but then quickly slide into being Me-centered – because “I matter the most”, says the little Mary-god sitting on her throne. But God’s truth is sharper than any two-edged sword and cuts to the bone and marrow of our soul. So, when God’s word showed me my “Me-centeredness”, I felt that sword. But it was and is a cleansing wound.

As we go forward into 2019, may we desire to be God-centered, and in doing so, becoming more and more conformed to the image of His Son. May we learn from His Word and Holy Spirit what it means to live God-centered. Here is one final Scripture God gave me today that seems to wrap up all this:

And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all? And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he: And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.

And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.
Mark 12:28-34

New Year’s Greetings To You

Aside
By Still Waters I

From a devotional I recently gave at the Laramie Reformed Presbyterian Church Ladies’ Tea. I hope it is a blessing to you.

A Life of Giving Thanks

Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Definition of Thankfulness: “A whole-hearted worshipful belief and acknowledgement that God is Good in everything He is, in everything He says, and in everything He does.”

Do you struggle to give thanks to God? Do you sometimes look at another believer’s life and think to yourself – it must be easy for that person to give thanks – they seem to have no problems. I know I have thought these things. But, if we were to have a heart-to-heart with that person, we would find that they, too, struggle to give consistent thanks to God.

The fact of the matter is: most, if not all, believers struggle to be thankful in all things. This struggle stems from our old nature and from the fact that we live in a fallen world. In this fallen world, when we experience something bad, either physical or spiritual, we feel it and acknowledge it, which, in and of itself, is not wrong. We would be stoics if we did not acknowledge the reality of suffering, and this would be dishonest. The psalms are full of heart-wrenching descriptions of the reality of this fallen world, and of the psalmists’ real, human reactions to them. We can certainly find ourselves in the psalms as we walk on our pilgrim journey.

So, we can safely say that when we acknowledge that something is hard, or difficult for us, we are not necessarily being unthankful. It is how we see God in relation to this hard or difficult thing that determines whether or not we are thankless or thankful people. Let’s listen to the holy complaint of the Psalmist and then how He ends his prayer with thankfulness to God:

Psalm 13:2-6
How long wilt thou forget me, O LORD? for ever? how long wilt thou hide thy face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? how long shall mine enemy be exalted over me? Consider and hear me, O LORD my God: lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death; Lest mine enemy say, I have prevailed against him; and those that trouble me rejoice when I am moved. But I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation. I will sing unto the LORD, because he hath dealt bountifully with me.

Being thankless is a temptation for all believers. We do live in a fallen world and are reminded of it every day: Our bodies get tired after a hard, busy day of working. Our emotions can get raw after intense moments or conversations with family or friends. We wake up in the morning with tired bodies after a short or restless night of sleep. Or we wake up experiencing some other discomfort – either of body – like chronic pain – or of the mind – like depression or perhaps just plain old discouragement. School deadlines are overwhelming. Family members get ill. Friends and loved ones die. Financial strains can be ever present. And these are just the physical things. I haven’t talked about the sins that seek to cling to us or to our loved ones, or the suffering we can experience as the result of the sins of others. CAN we be thankful in these difficult moments? What does the word of God say:

Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Giving thanks in these situations is the LAST think we want to do. Our old nature says that we should not and cannot give thanks in these situations. For fatigue? for pain? for heartaches? For difficult relationships? For depression? For death? Well, don’t believe your old nature. Our old nature, which we sometimes call the Old Man of Sin, CANNOT see our life in any other way.

The Old Man of Sin lives inside of everyone, whether a believer or an unbeliever. But for an unbeliever, this is the only nature they have living in them. This nature rules them. It controls them. It will kill them. But the believer has a new nature living in them, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It is this indwelling of the Holy Spirit that makes it possible to live a life tuned more and more to thankfulness.

As I move forward in this devotional, I want to focus on 4 things:

The possibility of living a thankful life
Being thankful in all things
How we can live a thankful life.
What a thankful life looks like

The possibility of living a thankful life

Is it possible to live a thankful life? For what ought we to be thankful? For needs that are met? For wants that are met? Can perceived needs be wants in reality? It can become important at some point in our lives to examine how we fundamentally view what we have, and what we don’t have – what we think we need, and what we want. Are we only thankful when we have needs and desires fulfilled? And for how long does this attitude of thankfulness last? Are we grouchy soon after because something else has not gone our way? And how often do we desire something, whether a need or a want, and when we are given that desire, our hearts are in such a state of presumption, or such spiritual dullness that being thankful is not at all on our hearts?

What if all earthly things are taken away from us – needs and wants? Can we still be thankful? The answer to these many questions can only be found after an examination of our souls in relation to God’s word.

First, we have to ask ourselves: what is our greatest need? A person can have all earthly things in their life going well, but still not have their greatest need met – the need for a mediator between himself and the wrath of God. I tell you, this person cannot be truly thankful. Just like everyone else, this person will be laid in the grave someday, leaving behind all associated earthly pleasures. But their greatest need will now be staring them in the face. However, by this time, this is a need that cannot be met. The Scriptures tell us that the time to seek forgiveness through the mediator, Jesus, is during the time He gives us on earth: Now is the day of salvation, and it is in the land of the living where God calls you to come to be reconciled to Him through the saving work of Jesus on the cross. 2 Corin 6:2 says: (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I helped thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)

Thankfulness can only be born of salvation. If God has called you to Himself, to seek His mercy and forgiveness of your sins through the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ, and then by His grace, you have come to Him and found your life in Him, you CAN TRULY live a thankful life – thanking God first and foremost for His salvation. JESUS is truly all you need. Let this be your first thought as the temptation to be unthankful creeps in. Here are several Scripture verses that teach us of the sufficiency of Jesus: These are good verses to memorize and meditate upon frequently:

Psalm 16:4-6 Their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten after another god: their drink offerings of blood will I not offer, nor take up their names into my lips. The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot. The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.
Psalm 73:25,26 Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.
Psalm 119:57 Thou art my portion, O LORD: I have said that I would keep thy words.
Psalm 142:5 I cried unto thee, O Lord: I said, Thou art my refuge and my portion in the land of the living.

Being thankful in all things

Thankfulness to God begins with thankfulness for His Great Salvation, but it doesn’t stop there. Because of Who God is, we can be thankful in all things as the Holy Spirit instructs us to do in the letter to the Thessalonions. Our thankfulness in all things requires trust, faith, and knowledge of God, but it is in the knowledge of God that faith and trust find their moorings.

Knowing Who God is is crucial to living a life of thankfulness. We all have earthly fathers. Most, if not all of us, have lived with our earthly fathers and therefore have some knowledge of who they are. We know them because of the time we have spent with them. We know their ways and habits. To some degree of predictability, we know how they would respond to different situations. We have some sense of their level of love for us. All of these things we know because of the time we spent with them.

Just as we come to know our earthly fathers through the time we spend with them, so it is true that we can know our Heavenly Father by spending time with Him. We learn Who God is by spending time in His Word and this is through hearing the preaching of His word, through group Bible study and through personal devotion time. And although we are unable to fully comprehend God on this earth, He has graciously given us the ability to know much of Him through His word. We see what He does, what He says, and what He thinks. We are blessedly supplied with His own revelation of Who He is. Who God is often described in terms of “attributes”. It is the trust in and belief of these attributes that spur us on to give thanks in all things.

How to live a thankful life

Let’s talk about some of these attributes and see how they relate to living a thankful life:

The Westminster Shorter Catechism: Q & A 4: say: What is God? God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.

One of the attributes of God on which I really love to rest is His unchangeableness. Humans are never consistent. We are always changing, depending on our mood, or on our circumstances. God NEVER changes. He is always Who He has always been, and that will never change. If God is in control of all things, He is always in control of all things. If God says He has saved us, our salvation is never lost. If God says that He loves us, He will always love us. If God says He will never leave us nor forsake us, He will never leave us nor forsake us. If God says He is truth, He will never lie to us. If God says all things work together for good for those who love God and who are called according to His purpose, then all things will work together for good to those who love God and who are called according to His purpose. If God promises to conform us to the image of His Son, then God will conform us to the image of His Son.
A firm belief in these truths about God will cause us to live thankful lives in the midst of all kinds of circumstances.

A life of giving thanks recognizes and believes that since God always loves us, we can give thanks in all the difficulties He has Sovereignly given to us because He is going to do something good for us as the result of these difficulties. In other words, because God always loves His children, we can truly be thankful in all things because God causes all things to work together for good for us.

Here is where spiritual discipline must be inculcated in our hearts and souls. Here is the “How” of a thankful life of a believer. Here is where we engage in the battle against the Old Man of Sin who says to us: be in despair, don’t trust God, there is no hope. Here is where we need to take every thought captive. Here is where we must constantly remind ourselves of God’s unchanging attributes. Philippians 4:8 says,

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

What a thankful life looks like

Though only God can see what is truly in our hearts, a life of thankfulness will mostly manifest itself in our words. We will speak of God’s constant goodness to us. And we will refrain from speaking disparagingly of our circumstances. Though we may need to vent out our frustrations and hardships, we ourselves will also speak of the ultimate goodness of God, or else we will willingly assent to the counsel of others encouraging us to trust God in what He is doing. But thankfulness will also manifest in our actions. If we are thankful in all situations, we will not be paralyzed with doubts or fears, but instead we will go about what God has for us to do in a trusting manner.

I would like to close this devotional with the Holy Spirit’s words in Philippians 4:4-7:

Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

A Life of Giving Thanks

Aside
By Still Waters I

I forgive you.
Thorns.
I forgive every sin,
Every sinful action,
Every sinful word.
Nails.
Every sinful omission,
Past sins,
Present sins,
Future sins.
Blood.
I know you don’t deserve my forgiveness.
You have truly sinned against me.
And there’s the point – you don’t deserve it!
Forgiveness is not something deserved.
It is something given.
If it was deserved,
It would not be forgiveness.
How plain.
And yet,
We are blind
Until we understand in our hearts,
And obey,
Remembering we have been forgiven
By an offended God,
Who looked past the offense
And saw
Thorns,
Nails,
Blood.
Because He was heart-generous,
He forgave.
Because He loved us.
He forgave.
Therefore, we die to self
And forgive.
And it is beautiful.
And freeing
You shall know the truth,
And the truth shall set you
Free.

Forgiveness and Freedom

Aside
By Still Waters I

Murder: What It Is and Why We Do It

The gun is raised, the trigger is pulled. The knife flashes and is plunged into the flesh. The fist is clenched and the blow fatally applied. Death by murder. What is murder? And why do we do it? Should we ban the instruments of murder? Remove from our society all things used in murder? The gun, the knife, the fist? Careful. Just as Adam and Eve in the garden pointed the finger at others for what they themselves did, so we can point to others and to things, for blame.


A man lies dead in a field. Murdered. Another man walks away, thinking no one saw him kill his brother. Yes, his brother. The first murder occurred, tragically, between brothers. What did Cain use to kill his brother? The Bible does not tell us, but we can be sure that it was not any modern device. Perhaps it was a stone, a large stick, a knife, or his bare hands. But can we be sure that the only instrument Cain used was a tangible one? Listen to what the Bible says about this first murder, “And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him. And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him. And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper? And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.”

It is perhaps significant that the Bible does not relay to us what physical instrument Cain used to murder his brother, but it rather stresses the condition of Cain’s heart toward God. Cain was wrathful toward God. He was angry. And he took his anger toward God out on his brother.

The Word of God tells us that the instrument used in murder is not of great significance. What is significant is the heart. Jesus tells us: “ For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:” Matthew 15:19. I think that we can all assent to that. We may say it in different ways, but if we are honest with ourselves, we are going to come up with the conclusion that physical murder starts in the heart. It doesn’t start with a gun, knife, a fist, etc. Banning items used in murder is not practical or logical. If we are going to ban all items that folks use to murder others, we are going to have to ban not just fire arms, but knives, cars, alcohol, ropes, etc. That still leaves fists, hands, feet, and yes, the heart. Even if we could ban the heart, if the heart wants to murder, it finds a way.

But have we addressed fully what murder is? Murders are brought to our attention in the news. Some murders do not receive this media attention. Regardless, murders happen every day. Though this is true, we usually do not dwell on them unless the media does, or unless, tragically, someone we love has been murdered. I would be remiss if I did not bring up the murders of babies through abortion. Just like Abel’s blood, their blood cries out from the ground. To further complete the picture, we also need to mention the murders committed through genocide that happen throughout the world.


But still, is that all there is? Is the picture truly complete? Have we completely fleshed out what murder is? No. We came close to it when we said that murder starts in the heart. But is murder always physical? Again, the answer is no. The Word of God says that when we have hatred in our hearts toward others, we are murderers. “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.” 1 John 3:15. So just because we have not broken the sixth commandment – Thou shalt not kill (Greek, apokteino, meaning “murder”) in a physical way, Jesus says that when we are unjustly angry toward someone, we are in danger of being judged by this commandment as a murderer, “Ye have heard that it was said of them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment:” Matthew 5:21, 22.

Sometimes this anger toward others plays out in physical murder, as in the case of Cain and in the case of many others throughout all time, and sometimes it produces the hidden murder of the heart. We are all guilty of at least the second scenario.

Physical murders in society should be addressed. Some are addressed properly in this world, and some are not. Some are not addressed at all. In any case, the blood of the victims cry out from the ground, and God hears it and will address physical murders in His own time and way.

God also hears the murder in our hearts. If we listen very carefully, we can hear it, too. We should tremble when we realize that simply the thoughts of our hearts condemn us. God, the judge, looks not on the outside, but on the inside, “for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

Yes, we can point the finger at the young man who sinfully pulls the trigger, at the drunk who abuses his wife, at the bully who beats up the small kid, and at those who murder their babies through abortion, but we must stop pointing to the instruments of death (guns, alcohol, knives) as the culprit, but rather point to the heart of those who wield these instruments. Furthermore, we must point to our own hearts, as we are guilty as well. Who or what can change our hearts? Can regulations and laws? As Paul, the apostle, cries out: “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? Romans 7:24


A man hangs dying on the cross, the victim of hearts of hatred. The instrument was the cross, but the source of hatred was the heart – the hearts of those who cried out for him to be crucified and the hearts of all of us, “Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers:” Acts 7:15

Ever since the fall of Adam and Eve in the garden, our nature is to hate God and His ways. Just as Cain took out his wrath toward God on his brother, so, too, we took out our hatred toward God on His Son. Is there deliverance for this heart of hatred toward God and His Son? Yes. It is in the death of His Son, foreordained by God, that we find life and forgiveness. We meant His death for evil, and God meant it for Good. God does indeed work all things together for good for those who love God and who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28. The sin that dwells within us was crucified with Jesus on the cross. Jesus took these sins upon Himself, paying the penalty that we owed to God for our sins. We are no longer guilty for our sins, and are re-born into a new life through His resurrection. We are washed and made clean and given a new heart, one that desires to love God and walk in His ways.

Murder. It is heavy business. It weighs on the heart and controls our actions, and puts us in hell. Jesus says: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30


May you flee to Jesus for relief of your heavy sin burden. He is faithful and just to forgive those who come to them seeking His mercy. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

Murder: What It Is and Why We Do It

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By Still Waters I

Let Nothing You Dismay

When I was a very young girl, my family at Christmas time would gather ‘round our piano under the big mirror in the living room and sing Christmas carols. One carol in particular made an impression on me. It was not a good impression. The carol was “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen.” I didn’t know what the words meant, but they seemed to me to be dark words, and the tune seemed just as dark. Perhaps this was because hearing it invoked a depressing visual image of carolers sadly (it seemed to me) singing this carol on a dark and dreary wintery street in the old version of the Charles Dickens’ movie, “A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost-Story of Christmas” (Yes, that is the full name.) But God, after saving me, gave me eyes to see and a heart to love the words (and the fitting tune) of this old Christmas carol. Ponder these powerful and beautiful words: “God rest ye merry, gentlemen, let nothing you dismay. Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day. To save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray. Oh, tidings of comfort and joy. Comfort and joy. Oh, tidings of comfort and joy.” Here is good news for those who know their burden of sin. Here is safety for those who have been in the grip of Satan. Here, the answer to the greatest need of men is presented in beautiful words. And, indeed, for those who have this comfort and joy, there truly is nothing to dismay. Praise God, the Savior!

 

Image by Dean Morrissey

Let Nothing You Dismay

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