Sunday, November 9, 2008

I want to share something my Bible Study leader pointed out this week. It is a whole new way of looking at something in the Bible and, I hope you will agree, it is an awesome testament to God's love. It comes from Psalm 73, which I will include here:



Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.


But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold.
For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong.
They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human
ills.
Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with
violence.
From their callous hearts come iniquity; the evil conceits of their minds
know no limits.
They scoff, and speak with malice; in their arrogance they threaten
oppression.
Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the
earth.
Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance.
They say, "How can God know? Does the Most High have knowledge?"

This is what the wicked are like - always carefree, they increase in
wealth.

Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in
innocence.
All day long I have been plagued; I have been punished every
morning.

If I had said, "I will speak thus," I would have betrayed your
children.
When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me
till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final
destiny.

Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin.
How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors!
As a dream when one awakes, so when you arise, O Lord, you will despise
them
as fantasies.

When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and
ignorant;
I was a brute beast before you.

Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into
glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides
you.
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and
my portion forever.

Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful
to you.
But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my
refuge;
I will tell of all your deeds.


I have read this passage before. In fact, much of it is underlined in my Bible. In the past I have looked at it sort of from the angle that eventually God would take revenge on the wicked. ("I was a brute beast before you".) But here is the new perspective my Bible Study leader brought to me: God wants to bless the "wicked" (anyone who hasn't accepted Jesus as Saviour) while they are here. He loves them SO MUCH, and He knows that when they die they will be separated from Him forever, so He says "I just want to give them all the good things I can while they are on earth." Now I know this runs the risk of sounding a bit heretical. I am not putting this forth as a new teaching or an interpretation that says "you were wrong before, this is what is really means". But just think about it a bit. We know that God does love EVERYONE. John 3:16: "For God so loved THE WORLD" - everyone. Romans 5:8: "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." God doesn't just love us after we accept the gift of salvation, He loves us BEFORE we accept the gift. He loves the people who NEVER accept the gift. He knows they will not accept His gift and will, therefore, be apart from Him forever. So what if He wants to show them a bit of His goodness while they are here? Think of it as God saying to you "Rest assured, you are going to be with Me forever and I will give you blessings throughout eternity. But now, for this small, finite period of time, I want to give blessing to the others whom I also love but who do not love Me and will not be with Me in eternity."


For me, this thought process does two things. 1) It shows me in a new way the breadth of God's love; and, 2) It helps me to be less envious of the material things others have. "The wicked" may have lots of things I wish I had, but I have this:


"Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. "


In Christ's love,
Laura

6 comments:

KC said...

Your notes are interesting, and I’m always a big proponent of not taking anything for granted and always keeping myself open to asking questions too. It keeps us humble to say “I only know, what you have revealed to me God, and nothing more.” I’d like to offer a look at how I try to answer questions like this, that I have for God.

I started reading this, and tried to let it just settle into my mind, of “Is it possible that God blesses those who do not believe in Him.” The biggest thing to remember is – Does this line up with what Scripture says? Because truly, that IS our source that God has given us. Here my own conclusion that I’ve come to in regard to this.

I don’t believe that God blesses those who are not part of his fold (though he does love them). I liked your note that He did send Jesus to us, while we were all sinners. However, Jesus was (is) a blessing ONLY if you accept Him. He wasn’t a blessing to those who rejected Christ. He meant nothing to their lives.

I also think that blessing non-believers would literally drive people away from God.
Do you think that God is interested in blessing people for their own comfort, or blessing others for His own glory?

Jesus mentions in the gospels that “It is easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle, than a rich man to get into heaven” And I think the point here is, that people who have everything, don’t feel they need God. They feel like everything they have attained, was by their own hands, which is a definite contradiction to scripture- that God is our provider. Blessing others for comfort- would never bring Glory to Himself or his son Jesus.

And in addition…God is not capable of doing anything that contradicts Himself. He is UNABLE to sin, and unable to be UN-just.

I think we should also look at God’s character before, what He has done in the past. Were there any sinners, who were mentioned in the bible as blessed by God’s hand, despite rejecting Christ or before Christ, God’s law? I don’t think there were. There were MANY sinners, who accepted God, and were then blessed- but I cannot think of a time that it mentions people being blessed, because God was sympathetic to their hardened hearts. In fact, God literally destroyed people who refused Him. God literally destroyed people…who refused Him. Job said “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in Him.” Because Job knew, God has the right to treat us ANY way He decides to. He is, afterall, our creator. Job accepted God, but he also knew that God was to be feared for his Almighty power. While I think it’s important that we know God IS a loving God…we also need to have a reverent fear towards him, that He is so just.

Sodom and Gomorrah…He had no qualms about destroying this city. God does get angry, when we turn our backs on Him, and though He is not WILLING that we should perish….He WILL let us perish if we refuse Him.

His beloved people of Israel almost did not see the promised land, b/c after seeing all the miracles- they STILL complained and worshipped the Golden Calf. Numbers 14:23 they will by no means see the land that I swore to their fathers, nor will any of them who despised me see it.

So while I think it’s a nice idea that God would bless people, because He does love them, I just don’t think there is anything biblically supportive of this idea, that God would bless those who reject His son.

Maybe this offers a good answer, maybe it creates more questions??
I once asked my pastor “Why are we not to love Satan. I know we’re not suppose to, but …if he is our enemy, and we’re asked to pray for our persecutors…why doesn’t that include Satan. (Not that I wanted to pray for him…I just wanted a specific reason why I shouldn’t!

bristowmom said...

KC,

I do not disagree with anything you say here; in fact, I believe you are absolutely correct. I LOVE the fact that you ask "does this line up with what Scripture says?"

I think I failed to articulate where my thoughts really were with this. I knew this was not what the Bible says - that God is not busy blessing sinners. I hope I can explain here, although my first failure is in danger of repeating itself.

To be honest, the biggest sin I struggle with on an on-going basis is covetousness. In the past Psalm 73 has led me (in my mind) to say sarcastically something like "You think you're so great because you have all this stuff that I don't have, but someday all of this will be taken away from you and you are going to suffer for eternity." -- "Brute beast" kind of thinking. Thinking of it in this new way allows my attitude to change from envy and revenge to love and pity. The thinking now is more like "You have all of these great things here on earth but someday it will all be taken away and then what?" I am not sure I can articulate the difference in print - it almost requires voice inflection to show the difference. When I look back at the post I can see that I didn't state this well at all. In fact, I outright said God wants to give them blessings and that, as you say, is not backed up by scripture. This is really about my heart attitude changing, not trying to change what God's Word says.

I hope this makes some kind of sense, because as I read it, it seems as muddy as the original post! My point, again, is that God is changing my heart - not His Word.

Thanks for commenting!!

KC said...

Oooh, YES- I can totally relate to what you are saying!

I struggled one day, walking around looking at other (arrogant) people and saying to myself "God, I know you want me to love these people, but WHY! They are so, UNLOVEABLE, and frankly I could care less about what happens to them. They've made their beds, LET 'EM LIE IN IT!"

And I feel that's kind of the same thing you mentioned in how we view others with pity and love, rather than revenge. That's exactly what God spoke to me too, with "I love these people for who I created them TO be...what you are seeing is their sin all over them, not at all what I want them to be, to be loved for."
So yes....I can totally relate to your comment!

Great thoughtful post!

Todd said...

Hi Laura,

The love of God is something I have tried hard to get a handle on and I must confess I cannot comprehend it. A book I found very helpful was "The God Who Loves" by John MacArthur. Appendix 2 is titled "On the love of God, and Whether It Extends to the Non-Elect." MacArthur quotes Andrew Fuller, a Baptist pastor from the late 1700's. Here is a part of what he said, I hope you find it helpful:

"Finally, you sum up the question in fewer words by asking, "What is the love which God hath for those whom He hath not chosen to eternal life?" I reply, It is the goodwill of the Creator, whose tender mercies are over all His works (Psalm 145:9). It is that tender regard for the work of His hands which nothing but sin could extinguish. That is why the infliction of the most tremendous punishments is proof of sin's malignity.

Scripture implies that God's wrath is against the grain of His native goodness. Since God's tender mercies are over all His works, we know that He would not punish offenders with eternal destruction if the inalienable interests of His character and government did not require it. Such are the ideas conveyed by implication in Genesis 6:7 "I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth" and Isaiah 27:11 "He that made them will not have mercy on them, and He that formed them will show them no favour.""

I could copy some more interesting sections from the book, but that could take all night! I would recommend you read it sometime.

Kind Regards,
Todd

bristowmom said...

Thanks Todd, for the helpful insight. I looked up the reference and HAVE to include it here in case anyone reads to this point because I think it shows the balance between these 2 conflicting ideas - God loving or not loving "the wicked".

Psalm 145:9 "The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made."

I would like to read MacArthur's book although, honestly, I never feel I am smart enough to read anything you read. I just have to rely on you to give me the Cliff Notes!

KC said...

Todd and Laura,
That book sounds really good! It conveys, very articulately, what I could not express either (dont feel bad Laura, I had to read and re-read the excerpt several times to grasp what it was saying too!)

I think I'll look for it next time at the book store!