Friday, July 18, 2008

Psalms of Ascent Part 7

Psa 126:1 A Song of degrees. When the LORD turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream.
Psa 126:2 Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, The LORD hath done great things for them.
Psa 126:3 The LORD hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad.
Psa 126:4 Turn again our captivity, O LORD, as the streams in the south.
Psa 126:5 They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.
Psa 126:6 He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.

God has never promised an easy path for His people. He has, however, promised that He will be with us and to work everything for our good. In Jeremiah 24, the prophet was given a vision of good and bad figs. Interestingly, it was the good figs who were to be carried into the captivity referred to in this Psalm.

They were to be there for 70 years, but they would leave suddenly. Often in our own lives situations and circumstances seem like they will never end or improve, however when God moves it is sudden. Like Zacharias who had been praying a long time for a son, when Gabriel appeared and gave him the promise of a son he could not believe it. Often when we have been praying for an answer for a long time we are not really ready for it when it comes. We have to blink and rub our eyes and ask ourselves, “Is this real?”

The streams in the south (Negev) refer to the seasonal streams in that region. Much of the year you could visit those areas and see no water, and doubt that a river could ever flow in that region again, but when the rains come these streams are torrents. When I was in Botswana there had been several years of drought and there was talk of removing a certain river from maps, because it had not flowed in 20 years! However that year heavy rains came and the river was back. Sometimes things like this happen in our own lives we wonder if everything will always so dry and barren. When the rains come it will change.

If we are faithful to sow the precious Word of God and good deeds in good times and bad, a harvest will spring up. To the upright arises light in darkness. Light and happiness are sown for them, they merely must wait for their harvest. To God be praise for His goodness!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Psalms of Ascent Part 6

Psa 125:1 A Song of degrees. They that trust in the LORD shall be as mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth for ever.
Psa 125:2 As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the LORD is round about his people from henceforth even for ever.
Psa 125:3 For the rod of the wicked shall not rest upon the lot of the righteous; lest the righteous put forth their hands unto iniquity.
Psa 125:4 Do good, O LORD, unto those that be good, and to them that are upright in their hearts.
Psa 125:5 As for such as turn aside unto their crooked ways, the LORD shall lead them forth with the workers of iniquity: but peace shall be upon Israel.

This Psalm contains the promises of preservation and warning against straying that are found throughout scripture in a very clear and yet concise manner.
Those that trust in the Lord will remain. They are as solid as the Rock that they stand on. They are the apple of His eye, and He surrounds them with His protection. Though He may allow the wicked to have rule over them for a short time, yet their rod will not rest upon them, lest they be discouraged. Man in his best is frail and the human spirit seeing the wicked prosper is liable to follow the way of the wicked. God allows the elevation of the wicked to try us but it will be but temporary. God’s concern is always for His people. In the parable of the wheat and the tares, the tares were not removed until harvest, not because they were desirable, but because none of the wheat should be removed by mistake. God would not have one blade of wheat mistakenly removed so greatly He loves His own.
To have a clear understanding of this promise, we must understand what it means by trust. This should be clear, but it has been muddied by men who wrest the scriptures to their own destruction. Trusting implies obedience. This is known even to the ungodly. How many times in a movie have you seen someone extending a hand to another person or making their way through a dangerous place and saying, “trust me.” What are they saying? They are saying believe that I have the power, skill, knowledge and ability to help you through this situation, and act upon it by relying on me. If we trust someone and they ask us to do something that we do not understand we will still do it. If we are walking in our own path and walking in disobedience to God, we are not trusting Him, no matter what we may say.
Committing your life to the Lord does not guarantee that you are trusting in the Lord now. Often when people walk their own way it is because of unbelief. They either do not believe that God knows best, or that He intends their good, or that He is able. Lack of belief in those three things is the root of much sin. Does God know best? Then His commands are better than what appears better to me. Does God intend my ultimate good? Then what He commands will result in happiness even if it causes pain in the short term. Is God able? Then what He promises as the result of obedience will take place no matter the circumstance. Jacob committed his sin of deceiving his father because he did not believe that God was able to overcome Isaac’s bias toward Esau and fulfill His promise. God showed him how it could have been different on his own deathbed as he blessed Joseph’s sons.
Those who turn aside are led away with the wicked. There is both goodness and severity with God (Rom. 11:22). A husband who loves his wife is hurt, made jealous and angry by unfaithfulness on her part. The greater the love for her the greater the anger manifest at her betrayal. If God’s love is infinite than His wrath must also be infinite.

Back in Malawi

I arrived back in Malawi on the 5th of July and we began our Bible school term on the 7th. In the beginning we had around 13 students, but there were 19 students by the end of the week. Malawi is having a food shortage again and times are hard for many of them. A more usual class size is 28-30.

Our Bible school is setup to primarily train people who are already in the ministry, and is arranged to make it as convenient as possible for village pastors. We have a 2 year course with 3 terms a year, terms are in February, June (July this year), and October. These times avoid the rainy season when travel can be difficult and do not interfere with their planting and harvesting, since most of the village people live by subsistence farming. Since some of the pastors and church leaders cannot leave their churches for a full 4 week term, we teach one subject a week. They can attend for a couple of weeks go back to their churches and return for the classes they have missed in 2 years time in this way they will still be able to complete the 2 year course, but it may take them 4 years.

This week I taught the subject, “The Hope of the Christian” using the text book by Pastor Norman Holmes. It is basically a study in personal Christian eschatology, concerning the ultimate goals that God has for each individual Christian. The transformation into the image of Christ and the completion of redemption at the resurrection are two of its main themes.

My father will be teaching first and second Corinthians this coming week. Then I will teach the Synoptic gospels.

I hope to continue my writing on the Psalms of ascent soon.