Posts for October 2011
2 Posts found

Psalm 44 – The outworking of God’s will.
Posted: 18 October 2011 in Psalms

“We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us, what work thou didst in their days, in the times of old. How thou didst drive out the heathen with thy hand, and plantedst them; how thou didst afflict the people, and cast them out. For they got not the land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them: but thy right hand, and thine arm, and the light of thy countenance, because thou hadst a favour unto them.”

“But thou hast cast off, and put us to shame; and goest not forth with our armies. Thou makest us to turn back from the enemy: and they which hate us spoil for themselves. Thou hast given us like sheep appointed for meat; and hast scattered us among the heathen. Thou sellest thy people for nought, and dost not increase thy wealth by their price.Thou makest us a reproach to our neighbours, a scorn and a derision to them that are round about us.”

Whatever happens on earth, or anywhere else in the universe, behind the scenes it is always God’s doing, and not that of his creatures. In the early verses of Psalm 44 the psalmist recalls a time when the working out of God’s intentions produced results favourable to the nation of Israel. But now he lives at a time when the reverse seems to be the case, and he can’t understand why.

Further on in the psalm he asks whether it might be punishment for idolatry which is responsible for Israel’s predicament, but that does not seem to be the case. There haven’t recently been any prophets in Israel warning of God’s displeasure, and the impending dire consequences if there is no repentance. So why, he wants to know, is this happening? It is in circumstances such as the psalmist finds himself in that the theology of the prosperity gospel (if we can grace it with the name of either theology or gospel) comes badly unstuck. God’s pursuit of his plans for the universe may have consequences which we find agreeable, but it might just as easily have consequences which we find disagreeable, and the Lord of the universe owes us no explanations whatsoever.

It may sometimes be the case that misfortune can be understood as the consequences of idolatry, and other sins, but at other times it is simply the outworking of God’s will for the universe. The part we have to play in those plans may not be wholly to our liking. None of Jesus’ first disciples had a particularly easy time of it, and we know that some of them paid for their discipleship with their lives, but that was God’s will for them.

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Leviticus 5.17 – Sin and preordination.
Posted: 17 October 2011 in Leviticus

And if a soul sin, and commit any of these things which are forbidden to be done by the commandments of the LORD; though he wist it not, yet is he guilty, and shall bear his iniquity.

The thrust of the above verse is that the objective fact of a transgression against God’ revealed will renders us guilty. The state of our conscience is irrelevant to that guilt, and so are the circumstances surrounding the transgression.

It is tempting for us to try and excuse ourselves from our sin, on the grounds that all things are preordained by God, according to the good pleasure of his own will, and that must necessarily include our sinful acts. But the fact of preordination is of no consequence, because, as the verse from Leviticus makes clear, it is the objective fact of our sinful acts which render us guilty before God, who cannot allow his holiness to be impugned by our sin. The God who judges us is righteous in all his ways.

The temptation nevertheless remains to protest that God is “unfair” in punishing those he does not freely choose to save. If we would avoid the sin of presumption, wherein the creature exalts itself against its Creator, we are obliged to accept that it is God who determines what is just and fair, and not us. Proverbs 21.30 has the following warning:

There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the LORD.

And so there isn’t. The only wisdom lies in the worship and fear of the Lord.

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