Opening the Door to Psalm 119, Part 24 (Conclusion)



“How Should We Then Live?’ asks the provoking title of Francis Schaeffer’s documentary which bears the sub-title ‘The Rise and Fall of Western Thought and Culture.’ The documentary is an expression of Schaeffer’s defense of Presuppositional Apologetics—the view that Christian faith is the only basis for rational thought. Remove that basis and rational thought decays. It’s a bold presupposition, isn’t it?

We all make sense of our experiences from presuppositions we hold. That is why two observers seeing the same thing can come away with two very different impressions. These suppositions, inferences, even hunches create the worldviews through which we make sense of everything we observe. Christian faith, explains Presuppositional Apologetics, presupposes the universe, the Bible, and Jesus, the Son of God are divine revelations without which every other worldview is lacking essential information for rational human life. There are no neutral assumptions from which reason can arise. Only the assumptions that arise from God’s revelation provide us with full rational thought that leads to full flourishing life.

As the psalmist brings us to his concluding stanza of Psalm 119, he summarizes Scripture’s teaching on the personal nature of God. He connects his experience of God with the rational basis of human thought: the Scriptural revelation that God alone is worthy of worship, that God’s precepts alone are faithful guideposts for life, and that God has created one salvation, the ultimate solution to every human problem.

“May my cry come before you, O LORD; give me understanding according to your word. / May my supplication come before you; deliver me according to your promise. / May my lips overflow with praise, for you teach me your decrees. / May my tongue sing of your word, for all your commands are righteous. / May your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your precepts. / I long for your salvation, O LORD, and your law is my delight. / Let me live that I may praise you, and may your laws sustain me. / I have strayed like a lost sheep. Seek your servant, for I have not forgotten your commands” (Psalm 19:169-176).

“Give me understanding according to your word,” pleads the psalmist. He is convinced that the wealth of wisdom (rational thought and the behaviours that arise from it) for the present, and hope for the future come from God. As modern thinkers, we may be tempted to think social consensus or political charters make Scriptural revelation obsolete. But can charters of rights and freedoms really trump the noble virtue God’s character and principles express? What about when society or nature and their current cohort of ‘freedoms’ and restrictions fail us?

The psalmist’s hope is in the Lord. “May your hand be ready to help me,” he prays, and “I long for your salvation…” So the psalmist guides us to look to the Hope of the Nations, the Lord’s salvation—Jesus—who alone offers a rational basis for believing that there is hope for us.

How ought we live each day in order to reflect the rational foundation of our faith? By coming to the Shepherd of our souls admitting we are “strayed…lost sheep” and “servant(s)”, and asking for His help to live lives of integrity, lives aligned with the truth of His revealed will. That is the message the psalmist has painstakingly taken 176 verses in twenty-two stanzas to communicate. Without God we are nothing. With His salvation we become everything He imagined. That’s more than epic. That’s rational.


Twenty-eight Days With Jesus, Day 22


Dressing Down

The banquet had ground to a halt. The man who had been singled out was ashen-faced and speechless. The host, father of the groom and a very important man, had singled him out causing the room to fall to a hush.

“Friend,” the host had asked, “how did you get in here without wedding clothes?”

Every eye turned upon the man who stood facing the gracious but stolid host. A defiant flush burned up the man’s neck and across his face replacing the grey pallor. He opened his mouth to retort but not a sound came out.

Looking out at the crowd of guests he could see he was out of place. Everyone wore splendid clothes of silk and satin, Egyptian cotton and Argentan lace, tulle and taffeta and tweed. Every outfit had been provided by the host in the receiving room, wedding favours of the most exclusive and unequaled kind. But this man had not come in through the grand arch-covered gates. He had slipped in through an open side door, drawn by the flickering lantern-light highlighting a table-full of magnificent wedding gifts. But he had been caught—his gig was up. In a word, the party crasher was dressed down, parceled up and sent packing.

Matthew records Jesus telling this parable to a large group of people who had yet again surrounded Him, longing to hear words of wisdom that would give hope for their weary down-trodden lives. As always, the dictatorial religious leaders were hanging about keeping surveillance on the scene. They wanted only to catch Jesus saying something to justify their arrest of Him.

“The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son,” Jesus had begun the story. The parable had allowed Him to communicate to his listeners truths about God’s design for humanity. The religious leaders understood. Jesus had revealed them as the sort who would be escorted not into but out of God’s kingdom banquet. “For many are invited, but few are chosen,” Jesus had ended His parable. Words like these would eventually bring about His execution, but not today. God had other tasks for Him to complete first.

As we hear this parable recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 22, we see the focus of the story is on the ‘wedding clothes’ the guests were wearing. In absence of these a man is excluded from the great heavenly wedding banquet. There is no excuse for attending the banquet without the host-provided garments. What is it about the clothes that is so important?

We are helped in understanding the allegory of the clothes by other references in Scripture:

“I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness…” (Isaiah 61:10).

“…not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ…” (Philippians 3:9).

“Then each of them was given a white robe and they were told to wait a little longer” (Revelation 6:11).

Our own attempts to be ‘good enough’ for God, for entering His presence, for being part of His eternal kingdom are cast away “like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). Instead, a ‘robe’ of righteousness is the only garment necessary and available to allow us access into the great banquet of community with God.

These verses picture Jesus’ perfect sinlessness being accredited to those who entrust their eternal future to Him. The truth permeates Scripture; it’s the classic rags to riches story, the prince to pauper transfer of apparel, birthright and privilege we thought was only found in fairy tales. But this story is for real. Saying we are righteous in God’s eyes is not a matter of being ‘holier than thou’—only Christ is truly that; it’s a matter of realizing we are totally incapable of being good enough on our own—we need Christ’s salvation.

So today, as we dress for the day, let’s remember to accept Christ’s provision of His robe of righteousness to be our spiritual garment. There’s a banquet waiting; who wouldn’t want to be dressed and ready for the grandest celebration ever held?

(Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons; Silar; [[File:The ZORA Folkdancegroup of Mohács in Hungarian traditional ethnic costume, 2008 Wisła 01.JPG|thumb|The ZORA Folkdancegroup of Mohács in Hungarian traditional ethnic costume, 2008 Wisła 01]])



Limited Time Offer

We’ve been considering God’s kingdom in terms of his outreach to the world, calling it the Ministry of Internal Affairs. We’ve considered it from various angles, noting that people’s reaction to it is polar: some embrace it, some ignore it, and others not only reject it but also actively attack it. It’s anything but passive, because God’s kingdom is not a dry historical treatise; it’s God Himself wanting to reestablish a warm, loving, interactive relationship with each of us. He shows no favouritism, but He continually reaches out to individuals in a way that makes those who receive Him feel like they are His favourite person in the universe. But this state of affairs is a limited time offer. Listen:

“As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says, ‘In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.’ I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” (II Cor. 6:1,2)

It’s like there is a promo code attached to God’s invitation: grace4u. But it can only be applied to access God’s ministry for a limited time. He talks of grace and favour and salvation in terms of its universal invitation but adds the caveat: act now while the offer stands – there will come a time when it will no longer be accessible to those who have delayed.

It’s a hard truth in some ways, but in other ways it heightens our awareness of the value of the offer, doesn’t it? Procrastination reveals our heart, because we always do what we really want to do.

So the Apostle Paul puts God’s invitation right out in the open for us to consider. He’s telling us that if we persist in our stall tactics, if we delay, defer and postpone responding to God’s offer, we will be the ones who lose out. Do you remember the offer?

He says, “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people. I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” (II Cor. 6:16,18)

Do we sense Him living among us? Does our attention to His presence give us the impression that He is as close as a friend walking alongside us? It does mean making a daily decision. It means consciously transferring allegiance from thoughts and activities that put up a barrier to our relationship with God, to thoughts and activities that reinforce the family bond God wants to have with us. When He says “now is the time” and “now is the day”, He means us to moment-by-moment allow Him access to our internal affairs.

It starts with prayer. It includes reading His Word, especially the gospels, with an ear to the ground for His footsteps leading us in our daily lives. It means humbly applying God’s truths to relationships with people around us – putting their needs ahead of our own, treating them with love and respect, sharing with them the good news of God’s offer.

We must act now; we must make every moment ‘now’ moments where God’s grace and favour and salvation are current and relevant in our lives. And lo and behold, we will begin to find God’s kingdom affecting our lives in ways we never imagined possible. Now.

(Photo Credit: images)