Psa. 51:7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. 9 Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. 11 Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. 13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. 14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness. 15 O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. 16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Most of the time when we pray we ask God to do something for us and that’s it. Sometimes we say “thank you”, but most of the time we take it for granted that it has been answered (or forget we even asked).

David is not afraid to ask God to do something for him: purge me, wash me, let me hear, let my bones rejoice, hide, blot out, create, take not, keep me near, restore, uphold. We should not be embarrassed to ask God for things…But we mustn’t stop there in the asking, nor with a mere “thank you”.

David is praying a conditional statement of sorts. “If you purge, wash, etc, then I will…” He knows that God’s work on his behalf does not and should not stop with what he needs. David knows that when God blesses him, he is freed from the shackles of sin so that he can glorify the one who freed him. He knows that action on God’s behalf demands action on his behalf.

Don’t think, though, that David is paying God back for his work. He is not scratching God’s back anymore than a person rescued from a burning house pays the fireman who pulled him out. You can’t pay back! Get over it. You are not dealing with a peer. God is not in need of your praise. Rather, as gratitude and faith overflow from our hearts and out of our lips (remember the post “Too Much to Say” two days ago?) and out into action.

David will teach, sing, declare praise…He knows that the world does not revolve around him and his family. Rather, he exists to help others see the magnificence and the splendor of the one who pulled him out of the fire. Ultimately, David knows that he is spiritually bankrupt. There is nothing he can do to repay God. It does not matter how many fattened bulls he slaughters, he is broken and useless.

True joy and love for God and for others comes when we live from a broken and contrite heart. We have something to offer people when we realize that we nothing to offer but words of hope and instruction about God.

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Better than Solomon

“Something greater than Solomon is here!” (Jesus; Matt 12.42; NET Bible)

This past Sunday a brother was leading Sunday School through the book of 1Kings 8–Solomon’s prayer of dedication of the Temple. Our time was spent in breaking the prayer up into seven petitions Solomon prayed (all circling around the blessings and curses in Deuteronomy). The seven pieces are as follows:

1. Sin against neighbor (1Ki 8.31-32)
2. Defeat by an army–due to sin (33-34)
3. Heaven’s rain ceases–due to sin (v35-36)
4. Famine & siege by enemy–due to sin (37-40)
5. Welcoming a foreigner (41-43)
6. Victory against enemy (44-45)
7. Captivity–due to sin (46-51)

While we were going through the blessings and curses in Deuteronomy as the foil for this prayer of dedication for the Temple, I couldn’t help but think of Jesus’ own prayer of dedication of his own body (the True Temple). Solomon was well aware that God would not be encased in the Temple he constructed (albeit magnificent). Heaven itself did not set boundaries for the Almighty. “Heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house I have built” (v. 27). All of the hearing that Solomon requests from God is that done with reference to the Temple–the symbol of God’s presence on earth. Forgiveness is granted when someone comes under the stipulations. That is, when someone stops asserting how things ought to be and submits himself to the manner which God has ordained.

We do not come to God with a list of how we think the world should be. We do not come to him thinking that we have the authority to dictate who is right and wrong–justifying our sin and condemning the mis-intentions of others. Rather, we listen FIRST. We listen to the way he has ordained the world to be ordered. We listen to him and how he has revealed himself. How proud we are when we determine what is right and wrong. What we see in this narrative is the responsibility of each person to confess his own sin.

Further, Jesus confessed that his body was the True Temple (Jn 2.19). Our repentance must then be in reference to him–not some mere Higher Power. When we confess our sin without reference to Christ, we denigrate God’s means by which forgiveness is offered. Jesus teaches us that we can go to the Temple of Ba’al and offer sacrifice. We can go to Dionysius’ vineyard and inebriate ourselves with self-righteous religion. But there is no forgiveness there. If you want to receive forgiveness. If you want to be heard, you MUST GO TO JESUS. Like it or not, that is the means he has ordained. Disagree? You need to give an account as to why this is false.

In John 17, Jesus echoes Solomon’s prayer. He has given them the Father’s teaching (vv. 7-8)–namely, that they must come to him for eternal life. We will find no other well that will satisfy us (Jn 4).

HOWEVER, one key difference between Solomon’s prayer of consecration and Jesus’ prayer. The end goal is that God’s people would be with Jesus and the Father. We do not stand afar off from the Temple, but are invited to come in and eat the fellowship offering. We do not drop our sacrificial goat at the door to the Temple only for the Levites to eat. No, we enter into the Holy Place and fellowship with Jesus. It is not a mere forgiveness, but a deep abiding and fellowship that is offered to us…if we will but humble ourselves and enter through the One Door.

Slow Down

Turn off the radio. I don’t care if it is a sermon. Turn off the television. I don’t care if it is the latest episode of 24. Put the book away. Put the computer away (and yes, I don’t care if you’re reading this…although you may want to wait to see why you should). 

If you’re like me, you have a to-do list of about ten things…constantly. If you’re also like me, you have a to-do list that is full of have-to’s rather than if-i-get-around-to’s. If you’re even more like me (don’t get too scared), then you suffer from discontentment until you have knocked out your to-do list. Not just that you have knocked it out, but that you have smote it and cut off its head.

Yesterday I was forced to turn it all off…and might I say it has been the most rewarding 30 minutes I have had in quite a while. My daughter and I played outside while my wife fixed our supper. As I sat there looking at my beautiful daughter, I had five or six things running through my mind that I should be doing. But I repented and breathed in the air-after-the rain smell and was taken back to my childhood days. How often have I longed for the days when I was 12 and 13 just running around my yard with my dog without a to-do list. For this short moment I delighted in the fact that the measure of a man does not consist in the length of his to-do list. Rather it resides in the content of that list. 

So much of what I think needs to be done is merely an accessory. I would do well to sit down each morning and remind myself what are my priorities in life. Much like Jonathan Edwards (and several fathers in the Early Church) who measured his life by his resolutions each day, I should sit down and look at my priority list – God, family, work, school, etc. 

Some of you may retort that I should just have a scheduled time in my day for down time. Sure, it could be that easy. But I want to challenge myself, in the middle of knocking out my to-do list, to intentionally stop hammering that nail and sit down. I want to challenge us to stop whatever it is we are in the middle of and remind ourselves that he gives rest to his beloved; we need to remember that he gives strength to my arms; he has even given me arms in the first place. 

So the challenge (beyond merely planning downtime in your life) is to go through your day today and intentionally stop whatever it is you are doing and be quiet. To be still and know who is your God.

"Morning Needs"

O God, the Author of all good,

I come to thee for grace another day will require for its duties and events.

I step out into a wicked world, 

I carry about with me an evil heart,

I know that without thee I can do nothing, 

   that everything with which I shall be concerned, 

   however harmless in itself,

   may prove an occasion of sin or folly,

   unless I am kept by thy power.

Hold thou me up and I shall be safe.

Preserve my understanding from subtilty of error,

   my affections from love of idols,

   my character from stain of vice,

   my profession from every form of evil.

May I engage in nothing in which I cannot implore thy blessing,

   and in which I cannot invite thy inspection.

Prosper me in all lawful undertakings,

   or prepare me for disappointments;

Give me neither poverty nor riches;

Feed me with food convenient for me,

   lest I be full and deny thee

   and say, Who is the Lord?

   or be poor, and steal, and take thy name in vain.

May every creature be made good to me by prayer and thy will;

Teach me how to use the world, and not abuse it,

   to improve my talents,

   to redeem my time,

   to walk in wisdom toward those without, and in kindness to those within,

   to do good to all men, and especially to my fellow Christians.

And to thee be the glory.

The Valley of Vision