Bible reading for April 22.
"And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people." (26:12)
Once again we are told of God's ultimate purpose for humankind: that we might dwell happily together with God. (Ex 6:7; Ezek 37:23-28.) Walking together is a sign of friendship. At the beginning of creation we hear that the first human couple "...heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day..." (Gen 3:8). What then fell into shame (and hiding) by the sin of Adam is redeemed by Christ, the second Adam, and will be restored in a new creation (2 Cor 5:17; 6:16; Rev 21:3). We need hide no longer from God. In the words of the Westminster Shorter Catechism our ultimate purpose is, "That we might glorify God and enjoy him forever." This new creation was purchased by Christ, and we are to receive him by faith, and along with him we receive all good things: "He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" (Rom 8:32)
Blessings and punishment. But in Leviticus we are still in the period of the Mosaic (or Old) Covenant. This chapter outlines the blessings and punishments for obedience and disobedience, respectively. We must remember two things about these promises and warnings: first, these are addressed to the nation of Israel, as a nation (a corporate entity), and not to any one individual. The wisdom books, specifically, Job and Ecclesiastes, deal with the perplexing question of why many righteous people don't see these blessings (e.g., children, crops, health, etc.). Secondly, believers in Christ are related to God by the New Covenant, which means that we are in Christ, under God's grace, and indwelt by the Spirit. The result is that we have greater security and better promises. But the principle holds true -- God blesses obedience, and punishes disobedience. But it is not a one-to-one correspondence with these OT blessings and punishments. In the OT it was more legal; in the NT it is more familial. So, as we read the Bible, we need to be careful to distinguish between the covenants, periods of time, and the progress of God's revelation to us. All of Scripture is written FOR us (for our learning and profit; 1 Cor 10:11), but not every passage is written directly TO us.
Take-away: are you walking with God and enjoying him? A highlight for me each day is an evening walk with my wife. As we stroll through our neighborhood, or on a trail, we talk about so many things. It may be big things like family issues, or it may be small observations, like the buds on the trees. Most days we return home refreshed in spirit and tired in body. So it is with our Lord. George Mueller, a man of faith and founder of many orphanages, wrote in his Autobiography: “The first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day is to have my soul happy in the Lord.” And, “Be assured, if you walk with Him and look to Him, and expect help from Him, He will never fail you” (George Mueller of Bristol).
"For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name." (33:21)
Why do we praise God? Why should we praise God? This psalm is a hymn, or a song of praise. It gives us some of the reasons why we sing about, worship, and praise the Lord. There is a call to worship (vv 1-3), the cause or reason for praise (vv 2-19), and a conclusion (vv 20-22). Other examples of this type of psalm are found in 36, 103-105, 111, 113, 117, and 135. The cause, or reason given, in this psalm for praise and adoration of God is three-fold: the character of God, the power of his word, and the strength of the Lord, especially to deliver those who hope in him.
At heart is the Lord's "steadfast love" (hesed, also translated, "loyal love, lovingkindness, unfailing love, faithful care")(vv 5, 18, 22). He is faithful and righteous. His word is powerful, seen in creation and in his wise counsel over-ruling the folly of the nations. And his power is seen in salvation and judgment -- he delivers those who trust him, who revere him. So, we sing of God's character, his word, and his deeds.
In 1746, Jonathan Edwards wrote a treatise called The Religious Affections. In the aftermath of the Great Awakening he saw that many people who had "experienced" the power of God were not actually changed (that is, spiritually and morally transformed) by those experiences. On the contrary, it seemed that a true work of the Spirit of God had at its core, not power encounters of God (e.g., dreams, visions,voices, bodily effects, or other unusual experiences) but rather a supernatural love for God and his holy attributes, such as, his faithful love, grace, goodness, righteousness, compassion, mercy, and so on. In other words, a mere belief in the existence and power of God does not change us, but the Spirit of God must birth a new love within us for God himself. This has been an ongoing prayer in my life, that I would love the Lord for himself and not only for what he does for me. So then, when we can trust his holy character and his wisdom -- along with his power -- as we wait and hope upon him.
My take-away: there's a lot of waiting in the Christian life! We live by faith in things unseen, and we hope with certainty for an unseen future. If my love for God depends mainly upon what I see him doing right now (for my benefit), I am likely to be discouraged and give up. But if I love God -- all of God as he has revealed himself in his Word -- then I can be at peace with the trials and discouragements of life. And I can praise and worship him for who he is.
P.S. I commend this work of Edwards to you, The Religious Affections, and you can read it online, Volume 2 of his works, courtesy of Yale University at edwards.yale.edu. Also, Gerry McDermott has written an excellent summary of this work, with modern applications, in Seeing God: Jonathan Edwards and Spiritual Discernment (Regent College Publishers, 2000).
Image credit: photo above by Annie Spratt on Unsplash.
We are following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule, as arranged by D. A. Carson.
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.