Sound In Thy Statutes

God’s statutes are His laws, His commandments. (De 4:40) We ask God to cause our hearts to be sound in His statutes so we won’t be ashamed. (Ps 119:80)

To be sound in something is to be grounded, trained, established and rooted in it. It’s to be fully aligned and consistent with a standard or principle. If we’re sound in God’s statutes our entire lives are conformed to His laws. There is no area of our mind or heart set apart or estranged from God’s law. To the degree that we’re deliberately out of step with His ways we’ll be ashamed. Why is this so?

Shame comes when we sin intentionally, presumptuously, when we have the opportunity to do good and we choose not to. (Ja 4:17) Such guilt brings shame, knowing we deserve contempt and rejection, because there’s no excuse for such wickedness.

Rebellion against unjust, wicked laws can be understood, but not against perfectly just laws. (Ps 19:7) What explanation can be offered for willful ignorance, neglect or violation of God’s commands? If there’s no way of knowing about a law there’s mercy (1Ti 1:13), otherwise rebellion is exposed and dealt with. (Ro 2:5-6)

Since our hearts are naturally inclined against God’s laws (Ro 7:23), we do well to plead with God to direct our ways to keep His statutes (Ps 119:5), to teach us His statutes. (26) The godly tremble at the thought of displeasing Him, afraid of His righteous response to sin. (120) It’s a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (He 10:31)

He’s already trodden down all who err from His statutes (118), who flagrantly and continually trample His laws underfoot — it’s as good as done. There’s no salvation for those who aren’t seeking His statutes (155), no mercy for those committed to rebellion. (He 10:28-29) Those who know Him keep His commands as well as they can. (1Jn 2:4)

As with learning a trade, a sport, or any discipline, we’re to pursue excellence in obedience (Php 1:10), training our souls unto godliness (1Ti 4:7), continually asking God to make us understand the way of His precepts (Ps 119:27) and to make us go in the path of His commands. (35) Without holiness, no one sees Him. (He 12:14)

As we learn God’s statutes our hearts rejoice (Ps 19:8) and our lips utter praise. (Ps 119:171) Suffering itself becomes a blessing to help us learn God’s statutes. (71) Our new nature delights in God’s laws (Ro 7:22); they become our songs (Ps 119:54) as we delight ourselves in them. (16)

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The Death of the Righteous

Balaam was a wicked man (2Pe 2:15) who had a unique relationship with God; it was well known that he could direct the blessings and curses of God as he wished. (Nu 22:6) Such holy, spiritual power in the wicked is hard to fathom. More mysterious still is God’s willingness to bestow it upon them.

God is pleased to work in and through whom He wills, however He wills (Da 4:35); having spiritual power does not imply holiness or righteousness or any favor at all with God. God is not limited or constrained in the way one might presuppose. Seeking spiritual power for its own sake is evidently then a vain pursuit. We should be seeking God Himself, not merely to wield His power.

Balaam was greedy (Jud 11), using his spiritual influence to benefit himself, willing to irreparably harm God’s precious people to get his way. (Re 2:14) How odd that a man with such a connection to God did not care to serve Him, and was even willing to become His enemy! Perhaps here, as with Lucifer, familiarity bred contempt.

Even so, when the Spirit of God came upon Balaam (Nu 24:2), he could pray the most amazing prayers! One such prayer was: “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!” (Nu 23:10b)

Dying the death of the righteous, passing from this vale of tears into the brightness of eternal glory, into the arms of our eternal Father, such a beautiful thing! (Ps 116:15) Who would not desire this?

And what contrast! the dreadful end of the wicked! (Ps 73:18-19) How do we even begin to compare the two: eternal death with the homecoming of a child of God! (Php 1:23) Yet we are, even now, comparing, weighing the two: our lives are revealing how we intend to die. (Pr 20:11)

Being on our deathbed, what shall we glory in? (2Co 10:17) What sacrifice made for Him shall we regret? What shall be our desire? (Ps 73:25) Will it be any different for us then than it is now? Not if we’re alive in Christ, walking in the light. (Ga 5:25) To the believer, living is Christ, and dying is gain. (Php 1:21) Only those who live the righteous life may die the death of the righteous. (He 12:14)

Balaam, for all his spiritual power, didn’t die a righteous death (Jos 13:22); he died a friend of the world, an enemy of God. (Ja 4:4) In his divinely inspired praying he did himself no eternal good. Perhaps these were just beautiful words to him, something to impress others.

When spiritual activity is rooted in self-interest, when we use religion to benefit ourselves, to exalt ourselves, how are we any different from Balaam? In such false religion we have our reward, and it’s truly nothing. There’s no excuse for this.

God looks on the heart, and renders to every man according to his work. (Ps 62:12) The heart that sees God, who knows God, will love God and live for Him. (Jn 14:23)

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The Way of Lying

Lying, speaking that which is untrue with intent to mislead and/or deceive, is forbidden. (Ep 4:25) Truth and honesty are the basis of any functional relationship, key to any thriving civilization. It’s so basic and so simple; where’s the debate?

The challenge comes when speaking truth appears to violate the law of love. (Ro 13:10)

Wielding truth to cause harm certainly is evil (Pr 12:18): just because it’s true doesn’t mean we should say it. We’re only to speak truth in love (Ep 4:15), seeking what’s ultimately beneficial for all. (Ep 4:29)

Holding our tongues, or choosing words carefully to avoid strife (Ja 1:19), this is wisdom (Ja 3:17) – and it’s quite different from intentionally speaking falsehood. Can it ever be right to tell an outright lie? even if we perceive the alternative to be harmful?

Another way to explore this: Would God ever be displeased by us speaking the truth in love when pressed to do so? when silence or evasion would be self-incriminating and/or dangerous? Would He be more pleased if we lied instead?

For example, should the Hebrew midwives have lied to Pharaoh about sparing the Israeli baby boys? (Ex 1:18-19) God blessed these brave women for their actions (20), yet He didn’t actually commend their deceit; He may well have blessed them in spite of it. Would telling the truth have been even more glorifying to God?

Or what of Jacob, lying to Isaac about being firstborn in order to secure his father’s blessing? (Ge 27:19) He succeeded, but was this the best way? Couldn’t God have blessed Jacob, as was His intent, without deceit? Perhaps such unholy grasping at God’s gifts is what made Jacob’s life so difficult and painful. (Ge 47:9)

And what of Rahab the harlot, when she lied to protect the Israeli spies? (Jos 2:4-6) James tells us her actions prove her justification by faith. (Ja 2:25) God doesn’t formally approve of her lying, yet she isn’t reprimanded either: she’s honored as a hero. Was her deceit appropriate? Would God have given her over to abuse and suffering had she told the truth?

As perhaps an indication of God’s heart here, one dear woman did choose the truth in dire straits: Abigail, Nabal’s wife. (1Sa 25:37) God intervened supernaturally and protected her, rather than letting her foolish husband retaliate and abuse her (38), and made her the bride of the king of Israel. (39)

And what of Christ’s example? Did He ever lie or deceive anyone? At times, He spoke things He knew would be misunderstood (Jn 2:18-21), but this isn’t quite the same as speaking what’s untrue. Based on His example, we evidently aren’t responsible to clarify the ambiguous for those who aren’t seeking truth. But to testify falsely – to put our name on outright, deliberate deception, to profess it and stand behind it, this is altogether different. We don’t learn this in Christ. (Ep 4:20)

Christ is the Truth (Jn 14:6): God cannot lie. (Tit 1:2), so it’s inconceivable that He’d ever utter any blatant falsehood, or encourage anyone to do so.

The consequences of telling the truth may be unpleasant, but the consequences of lying are arguably worse, at least in the long run. Lying isn’t love (Pr 26:28a); it victimizes, disrespects and dishonors, and tempts further into darkness on the merit of our character.

The way of lying is choosing the lie as a manner of life, to set our hearts on it with intention; it’s committing to lying under some condition, being premeditated about it, rather than simply lying in the moment under stress or caught off guard, almost instinctively to protect one’s self.

Choosing the lie under any circumstance may corrupt our own ability to walk in the light, obscuring our way (Pr 4:19), blinding us and hindering our growth in holiness. (Ep 4:17-18) Since Satan is the father of lies (Jn 8:44), when we commit to a lie of any kind it’s hard to understand how we’re not aligning with Satan, agreeing with him, inviting him into our hearts and participating with him, giving him space to work his way within us. (Ep 4:27)

If it’s ever appropriate to lie, to be aligned with Satan in the slightest way, then where are the boundaries … exactly? Once we voluntarily give him ground, a foothold, how do we contain him and manage him? how do we keep him from taking over our lives?

The very basis of spiritual warfare is dealing with the lie: every sin springs from a lie, from being deceived about reality. (Jn 8:32) Voluntarily engaging the lie to achieve any end at all is thus to play with Hell fire; this is a dangerous, slippery slope into spiritual bondage if there ever was one.

Once a captive of Satan through the lie, there’s only one way to escape: God must give us repentance to the acknowledging of the truth. (2Ti 2:25-26) However, if godly behavior embraces the lie, choosing the way of lying, then the ungodly behavior is to embrace the way of truth. How then do we repent of this ungodly behavior — of embracing the way of truth? Repentance requires acknowledging and aligning with the lie and rejecting the way of truth, yet this can’t be the gift of God; we’re children of light, and this is darkness. (1Th 5:5)

God hates the lying tongue (Pr 6:17), and His life in us does the same. (Ps 119:163) It’s our love of truth that marks us as His children (2Th 2:10); anyone who loves and lives in lies is not a child of God. (Re 22:15) We’re not only to believe the truth (2Th 2:13), we’re to walk in it (Ps 86:11) and cling to it as priceless. (Pr 23:23)

Though circumstances may be tempting, and the devil lure us into believing that deliberately deceiving others, or even ourselves, will be for the best, the Spirit of Truth (Jn 16:13) calls us to higher ground, if we’re willing to trust Him, away from lying, to choose the way of truth. (Ps 119:29-30)

The days may soon be upon us when speaking the truth may cost us and/or our loved ones dearly. Let us believe that lying will dishonor our Heavenly Father, and eventually cost us more. May God have mercy on us, as He evidently did with the Hebrew midwives, Jacob and Rahab. May He give us wisdom and grace, and help us withstand in the evil day (Ep 6:13), girded with the armor of truth. (14a)

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The Valley of Baca

The Psalmist describes those who walk with God by what they do to the valley of Baca – or weeping. As they pass through this dreadful place they transform it into a well; rainwater refreshes and overflows, turning the lowest places into pools of beauty and mystery. (Ps 84:5-6)

The vale of tears is at times a long one, taxing all but the holiest souls. Most every soul passes through it, one way or another. This life is one of suffering; no one escapes unscathed. (Job 14:1) The journey is transformative for those seeking truth, stripping off dross like a refiner’s fire. (He 12:11)

What do we do in the valley of Baca? that season where there’s little physical or emotional comfort in our circumstance, when there’s so much to mourn? Do we merely endure, or do we transform this valley as we’re transformed through it?

There’s certainly a time to mourn. (Ec 3:4) But if we aren’t careful we can be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. (2Co 2:7) We’re to be afflicted and mourn (Ja 4:9), but not like the world. (1Th 4:13) What we have in God ought to bring an undercurrent of rejoicing, even in our sorrow. (2Co 6:10)

How do we mourn with those who mourn (Ro 12:15), without it becoming too painful, overcoming us with grief? How do we turn these inevitable seasons of weeping into wells overflowing with the abundant water of life? (Jn 7:38) Perhaps it lies in gaining heavenly perspective in our suffering. (Ps 73:16-17)

Those who’s strength is God Himself go from strength to strength (Ps 84:5), walking with God through this world of suffering (7), knowing He’s good, that He works all things to the good of those who love Him (Ro 8:28), and that He Himself is the eternal reward of those who seek Him. (He 11:6) They know all with heavenly perspective are rejoicing in all of the works of God (Ps 145:10), highlighted and revealed through all the evil and suffering He allows. (Ps 76:10) In the end, the righteous rejoice in all of it (Re 15:4), and glory in God Himself. (2Co 10:17)

Our light affliction is but for a moment, but it works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. (2Co 4:17) It’s only as we look at the eternal that we gain divine perspective and properly align ourselves with reality. (18)

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When God reveals Himself to Moses at the burning bush, He introduces Himself as JEHOVAH (Yeh-ho-vaw, or Yah-weh). (Ex 6:4) Yet most of the time translators come to God’s name, in the Hebrew – YHWH, they refuse to translate it, rendering it the LORD. Why?

The choice is likely rooted in long-standing Jewish tradition to not pronounce the name of God, or to even write it, in order to avoid misusing it or taking God’s name in vain. (Ex 20:7) Yet this has resulted in obscuring God’s name altogether, such that there’s serious debate about how to even pronounce it, which doesn’t seem very good either; now, we’ll need to wait until He returns just to know for sure what His precious name sounds like.

This fact been bothering me for a while, that the KJV in particular has this problem most of the time, such that when I’m quoting scripture which contains the tetragrammaton I’ve been saying Jehovah; it seems to me the most respectful way to navigate this one. Personally, I’d be displeased if no one was willing to pronounce my name when talking about me or addressing me; I’d see it as a subtle way to dishonor me. So, in loving God fully I mustn’t do that which might dishonor Him.

However, recently, I noticed that when Paul quotes Ps 117:1 in Ro 15:11 he does the same thing, replacing YHWH with the Greek kurios: Lord. If Paul himself does this under inspiration, it appears reasonable for translators to do so as well. This is sufficiently conclusive to settle the matter for me; it just isn’t an issue.

Yet some argue that Paul wrote Romans in Hebrew, not Greek, claiming he didn’t actually translate God’s name; they’d claim the Greek kurios came to us later through a scribe, and it’s not inspired. But this doesn’t pass the sniff test: in Romans, Paul addresses Gentiles (Ro 11:13) as well as Jews (Ro 2:17), and Gentiles in that day weren’t expected to be fluent in Hebrew. Paul wouldn’t write a letter to a mixed Jew-Gentile congregation in a language many in his intended audience didn’t understand.

If the Pauline answer isn’t enough, the Gospel of John also follows this pattern (Jn 12:38), and was clearly not written in Hebrew – within the text itself John translates common Hebrew terms for his reader, such as rabbi (Jn 1:38) and messiah (41), and explains basic biblical feasts (Jn 6:4); this wouldn’t be the case if John wrote in Hebrew to a Jewish audience.

We should certainly be careful to respect God’s name, and it’s clear that God originally reveals His name in Hebrew. So, it certainly isn’t wrong to use His Hebrew name as well as we can, especially when quoting the Hebrew scriptures, and many of us prefer using God’s Hebrew names. But insisting that others do so, or that God’s name must be transliterated, or not replaced with the LORD, is inconsistent with God’s own manner of inspiring His Word.

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Ye Are Gods

Each and every person, being made in God’s image, is an eternal being; we’ll all transcend physical creation and endure forever. The salient question isn’t how long we’ll exist, but what we’re becoming. Since existence itself isn’t an option, we ought to soberly consider the consequences of an eternal, limitless transformation.

From our temporal experience, becoming is a matter of trajectory, a journey, a vector with force and direction. In an eternal trajectory then, once we’ve established a general direction of travel, we’re headed for one of two extremes. We’re either becoming the equivalent of gods and goddesses (Jn 10:34-36), at least in the mythic sense, or demons and devils. (Jn 6:70) There’s no middle, neutral ground in this eternal centrifuge of becoming.

Christ will ultimately divide us into two distinct groups: sheep and goats. (Mt 25:32) But in this eternal division there won’t be any close calls, we’ll have cleanly divided ourselves into good and evil, benevolent and malevolent, beauty or horror, well before God begins to sift through us. By then it will be mere formality.

These two paths we tread are vast in scope; the destinations are infinitely disparate: there’s no upper (Php 1:6) or lower bound to what we can become. (2Ti 3:13) As the distance between two divergent lines, no matter how slight the angle, eventually becomes infinite, every step we take, every move we make, has an eternal, limitless, unfathomable consequence.

So as we interact with one another in this apparently finite, temporal space below, we’re dealing with eternal beings, beloved children of God (Ac 17:29), those infinitely loved by the Almighty. (Jn 3:16) God reveals how we value Him in how we treat one another. (40) Do we honor all as bearers of the divine image? (1Pe 2:17) Do we esteem others better? Or set ourselves up as judges? (Mt 7:1)

How do we call forth from within ourselves, and from those we meet, the best we each have to offer? (Php 4:9) Knowing the depravity of Man, how do we, in wisdom, beckon to fellow pilgrims in this eternal journey to walk in the light with us? (1Jn 1:5-7)

In fear and trembling (Php 2:12), knowing the terror of God (2Co 5:11), we prayerfully aim our lives at God, seeking Him with our whole heart (Ps 119:10), pressing toward the mark (Php 3:14)joyfully pointing the eternal trajectory of every thought and action toward Him the best we know how.

And we trust in God as we extend the welcome, benevolent hand of brotherhood to every soul we encounter, loving our neighbors as ourselves, praying for everyone (1Ti 2:1), listening and looking for how we might nudge each and every soul more into the Way of righteousness. (Da 12:3)

We don’t do this naively, in weakness or passivity, foolishly presuming others are good; we wait only upon God, knowing He only is our Rock and our Defense (Ps 62:2), our Light and our Salvation (Ps 27:1), that He works all things together for good to those who love Him (Ro 8:28), and that all He calls will come to Him. (Jn 6:44)

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