Bible reading for March 4: Exodus 15; Luke 18.
"Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?" (Exodus 15:11)
Singing God's praise (Ex 15:1-21). This, the first of Israel's hymns, is a victory song, not unlike the "Battle Hymn of the Republic." It celebrated a military victory, but it was God's victory alone. "The Lord is a man of war; the Lord is his name" (15:3). God fights for his people and defeats his enemies. Many people find this militaristic conception of God to be totally unworthy of him. I suppose some might think that God merely loves his enemies to death... But this world is a violent world, filled with many forces -- physical and spiritual -- who oppose God, goodness, and justice. With holy violence the Lord will defend his name and will defend his people. God indeed is extremely patient and longsuffering. However, a quick reading of the book of Revelation reveals to us that God is not weak or insipid in upholding his righteousness and enforcing his judgment. He judges those who oppress his people. He is our shield and defender, as the hymn-writer says,
O worship the King, all glorious above,
O gratefully sing His power and His love;
Our shield and defender, the Ancient of Days,
Pavilioned in splendor, and girded with praise.
Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail,
In Thee do we trust, nor find Thee to fail;
Thy mercies how tender, how firm to the end,
Our maker, defender, redeemer, and friend.
-- "O Worship the King", words by Robert Grant (1780–1838) adapted from the Genevan Psalter (1516).
Singing the blues (Ex 15:22-27). In this chapter we see that God's people are also quick to complain. The hymn of praise soon turns to a song of ingratitude. This will occur again and again here and in the book of Numbers. God provides for his people, but they (and we) can be very impatient and quick to find fault. Stay tuned, we will see more of this.
"But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted." (Luke 18:13-14)
Justified! Luke includes some events that we have seen before in Matthew and Mark, especially related to humble, childlike faith (18:17). But Luke includes a teaching not found in the other gospels. Two men are seeking to approach God by prayer in the temple. One, an observant Pharisee, thanks God for the good things he (the Pharisee) is doing for the Lord. The way the prayer is phrased it seems that he is humbly thanking God for these things, though he casts a sidelong, judgmental glance at the other man. The other man, a despised tax collector, does not even lift his eyes to heaven, but acknowledges his sinfulness and asks for God's mercy. He looks to God alone for atonement. Jesus said, "this man [not the other] went down to his house justified..." (18:13). This would have been shocking to many upstanding Jews of the day, that Jesus taught that the first man, who seems to be sincerely trying to keep the law, would not be considered righteous (or just) in God's sight, but the second man (who knows all the wrongs he has committed?) would be considered by Jesus as "righteous". This word "justify" (Gr., dikaio) is the same word that the Apostle Paul will use in Romans and Galatians to speak of "justification by faith". Saving faith involves finding our righteousness not in our own works -- nor in anything in us or in comparison to anybody else -- but in God's grace and mercy in Christ Jesus alone.
Image credit, photo above: AdobeStock.
We are following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule, as arranged by D. A. Carson. A PDF copy is available here. http://www.edginet.org/mcheyne/printables.html
Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.