Is Mary, the Mother of Jesus, Most Blessed?

“And Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his offspring forever.’” Luke 46-55

Mary is often portrayed as lofty and exalted. Truly, she is one of the most fortunate women in all of history. It’s right for us to call her blessed. Mary herself knew that all future generations would call her blessed (Luke 1:48). Yet, more than anything, her lips praised God for His blessing to her undeservedly. Mary magnifies not herself, but her lord in this song. We hear Mary confess her lowliness and contrasts it with God’s greatness. She says that God’s mercy is for those who fear Him, not for those who believe they are good people of high morals (Luke 1:50). In fact, she tells us that God shows His strength by scattering the proud and bringing down those who brag about themselves. Mary was not just making up a fine-tune, but recounting God’s faithfulness as recorded in the Scriptures. She identifies God’s mercy and loyal love solely based on His promises, such as His covenant to Abraham. When we recognize our need for His mercy in light of our utter unworthiness we are the objects of God’s honor and blessing. God is the one who gives blessings (Pslam 72:17). When the angel appeared to Mary, she was terrified (Luke 1:29). She was but a young girl from a seemingly obscure town. The message from the angel was that she had found favor from the Lord. Her response was to be a willing servant of the Most High God.


Mary is not worthy of her blessedness in her own merit but in God’s gracious choice. He uses an ordinary woman to show His extraordinary love and faithfulness toward lost souls. All of us are bent on breaking God’s law. The law given to Moses showed us how inept we are at keeping God’s perfect standard of holiness and unable to enter His heavenly courts on our own—the glory of His presence and being free of the pain of sin and death. Life eternal is something that has to be granted based on the free gift of Jesus’ perfect life poured out for us on the cross. Mary gave birth to the perfect child who was fully human and yet fully divine. It had to be miraculous and from the Holy Spirit and yet also in fallen flesh and blood to represent humanity (Gal 4:4-5). What was it like for Mary to have a son who never, even once, sinned? The Bible tells us that Mary had other children with Joseph after the virgin birth of Jesus (Mark 6:3). James who later believed and became an instrumental figure was one of His brothers. He wrote the letter of James in the New Testament. Did Mary struggle to not favor Jesus over her other children? We know they had a hard time believing—they must have envied Him greatly. Mary was blessed but not perfect. There was a time when she too along with Jesus’ earthly brothers didn’t understand His mission and even tried to keep Him from God-given ministry (Mark 3:31, Matthew 12:46).


Jesus at the beginning of His ministry addresses Mary as “woman” to compare His deity with her humanity (John 2:4-5). Jesus would prove to be the Son of God when His time came to die and rise. She was merely a created being who wept under His feet. Mary, like all men and women, was un-mistakenly and lovingly made in His image; yet He was her Savior. In the magnificent song Mary penned in this passage, she rejoiced in this her Savior. It was from the promised seed—Christ, whom she and the entire world would be blessed (Gen 22:18). More than being the earthly mother of Jesus, the blessed are those who hear God’s Word and seek to abide in it (Luke 11:27-28). Praise the Lord for His choice in you and me who are in Christ—to be His servants and testify of our blessed Savior!

God’s Name Displayed in Ester’s Faith

“Then Esther spoke again to the king. She fell at his feet and wept and pleaded with him to avert the evil plan of Haman the Aaiter and the plot that he had devised against the Jews. When the king held out the golden scepter to Esther, Esther rose and stood before the king. And she said, ‘If it please the king, and if I have found favor in his sight, and if the thing seems right before the king, and I am pleasing in his eyes, let an order be written to revoke the letters devised by Haman the Agagite, the son of Hammedatha, which he wrote to destroy the Jews who are in all the provinces of the king. For how can I bear to see the calamity that is coming to my people? Or how can I bear to see the destruction of my kindred?’ Then King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther and to Mordecai the Jew, ‘Behold, I have given Esther the house of Haman, and they have hanged him on the gallows, because he intended to lay hands on the Jews. But you may write as you please with regard to the Jews, in the name of the king, and seal it with the king’s ring, for an edict written in the name of the king and sealed with the king’s ring cannot be revoked.'” Ester 8:3-8 ESV

Esther was an ordinary woman placed by God’s sovereign hand at the right time and place for an extraordinary act of faith. In the previous chapters, we saw how God gave Esther and her uncle Mordecai favor before the king to place them both in high positions in the palace. Even at that time, God had been preparing them for greater acts of courage to come when their lives and those of the entire Jews nation would be on the line. God was taking their little faith and growing it to accomplish an extraordinary act of deliverance for all mankind in preserving the seed from which Messiah would come to deliver once and for all from the curse of sin and death.
The book of Esther is a controversial book for several reasons. One is that God’s name is not explicitly mentioned in the entire book. However, as the story unfolds we clearly see God’s saving gracious character displayed through the ordained circumstances He brought about, and the faith-fueled actions of His people. When Esther found out that the evil official Hamman deceitfully plotted to annihilate her people, she had a choice to sit idly by or to risk her neck for them. Mordecai warned her that she is not safe merely for being queen, as Vashti’s absence would testify. If she chose not to act, God would still save His people based on His faithfulness. Here was one women’s chance to be graciously used by Him to bring about His good purposes even in the midst of devastating oppression and evil. “Here is a woman who had not only high courage but sincere faith and a devotion to the cause of her people. Also she had exhibited real loyalty in her co-operation with her cousin Mordecai, who had reared her and was largely responsible for the fact that she now sat on the throne of Persia. The king’s affection she seems also to have won wholeheartedly.” (Edith Deen. All the Women of the Bible,149).
We see God’s saving power in giving Esther favor with the king and working in his heart so that he would desire to recognize Mordecai at precisely the time that Hamman was about to kill him. This story ends with the triumph not of Esther but of her mighty God who is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. If we take refuge in Christ, He will act on our behalf and deliver us.
Father God, we praise you for your power to save and deliver your people! Thank you for the testimony of the faith of Esther and Mordecai that may have started of mustard seed size but was solid and able to move mountains of adversity. May you grow our faith lived out in acts of obedience and courage when times get tough that Your name be further proclaimed and glorified.

Ester’s Estate of Faith

“When the turn came for Esther the daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai, who had taken her as his own daughter, to go into the king, she asked for nothing except what Hegai the king’s eunuch, who had charge of the women, advised. Now Esther was winning favor in the eyes of all who saw her. And when Esther was taken to King Ahasuerus, into his royal palace, in the tenth month, which is the month of Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign, the king loved Esther more than all the women, and she won grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins, so that he set the royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti. Then the king gave a great feast for all his officials and servants; it was Esther’s feast. He also granted a remission of taxes to the provinces and gave gifts with royal generosity.” Ester 2:15-18

We love Ester because of her fearlessness! Ester was a young lady known for her trust in God amidst turbulent times.  After the tragic death of both her father and mother, she was left alone. God kindly provided for under the authority of her uncle Mordecai. In God’s providence, she had the opportunity to become queen.  The king was a pagan and immoral ruler. It must have been scary for Ester to follow her uncle’s advice to go to the palace to request to be seen by the king. Yet, she went. She did so carefully following the instructions of her leader. It was an act of submission that contrasts the one of the former queen—Vashti. In this simple act of courage, God was preparing her heart for a bigger act of faith that lay ahead where she’d risk her life to save those of her people. God rewarded Ester for her faith and that of Mordecai who must have been praying for her. She won favor from the king. Mordecai also gained the king’s favor and was given an open door to be placed in a high position in the palace. The Lord placed Ester in the royal seat to accomplish salvation for her family and her people—God’s people. It was not for her reputation or glory but in order to bring salvation to His people and glorify Himself.

God’s sovereignty is seen in how He uses even pagan rulers and worldly systems to bring about His purposes and save His children.  No matter what our government and world look like we can take refuge in God’s saving character and faithfulness to His children. The basis of God’s love is not ourselves. The Bible says that all have sinned and fall short of His perfect standard. God’s favor is given to us by His grace and love. The greatest demonstration of His love was in sending Jesus to give up His life for ours. Now as a response to His kindness we are to be moved by gratitude and joy into obedience out of our thankfulness for His goodness and love. Faithful obedience starts with the little things every day that help us respond better to the bigger tests of our resolve to honor God. Sometimes, mature believers are used by God to help push us toward this kind of courageous and risky obedience like that demonstrated by Ester and even Mordecai who encouraged her to be brave.

Father God, you are in control of all things–times and seasons and governments.  We take refuge in Your protection and provision.  May we trust in Your providence and sovereignty and be moved with faithful resolve to the ways You seek to use to grow our faith and accomplish your purposes. May your will be done in us on earth as is in heaven. For Your glory and kingdoms’ sake.

A Look at the Magnificent Faith of Rahab Part 3

“and said to the men, “I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath. Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that, as I have dealt kindly with you, you also will deal kindly with my father’s house, and give me a sure sign that you will save alive my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.” Joshua 2:9-13

The story of Rahab is a beautiful example of God’s redemption purposes for all nations through His people.  The gospel is proclaimed through her example.  Rahab is vital as she acts as both a warning and encouragement to God’s chosen people.  A warning that the Gentiles could be grafted in and put Israel to shame, and an encouragement to the power of God that would be with them as long as they were moved by faith to obey (Romans 11:18-20).

There can be no allegation to God’s injustice in choosing only the Jews for they were meant to not only to receive a special blessing but to extend it to all who would believe in the LORD and seek to follow His way.  God is holy and demands perfection.  The reality is that no man or woman born of Adam’s race deserves heaven for in Adam all sinned and humanity as a whole was sentenced to separation from God (Romans 5:12).  The gospel is the good news that God was born as a man and bore the punishment of sin that man would become Christ’s righteousness (2Cor 5:21).  Through the royal seed of Abraham, Messiah claims victory over death and the crushes the curse of sin (Gen 3:15).

God’s great love for the world drove Him to send His only son to atone for the sins of all who would repent and believe—both Jew, Gentile, and Canaanite alike (John 3:16, Mark 1:15).  By faith, Rahab stands in sharp contrast to the response of her native people who had long refused to submit to God’s authority and means to be saved.   They had set themselves as Yahweh’s enemies.   Redemption was offered even to the Canaanites devoted to genocide during Israel’s conquest as evidenced in the salvation of Rahab and her family.   When people gave their allegiance to Yahweh and became holy belonging to Him, they were no longer under the order of destruction.

The message of salvation through faith alone is so loud in this short passage of Scripture.  The character of Rahab plays a critical role, yet not a glamorous one.  She is a positive example not by her virtue but in her weakness made strong through faith in Yahweh (Hebrews 11).  The mercy of God that triumphs judgment is highlighted by her redemption from paganism to becoming a carrier of the promised seed that will crush the seed of the deceiver (Matthew 1, Gen 3).  Rahab’s identity as a gentile devoted to destruction reveals that salvation was not exclusively for the Jews  even in the Old Testament.  This snapshot of God’s grace captures the essence of salvation which comes by faith alone and is manifested in love for the LORD and His people.  May we be Spirit-empowered to reach out to the despicable and the unlovable, as Jesus Himself reaches tax collectors and sinners, with the message of Rahab—the life-changing message of the gospel to the praise of His glorious grace.

Believers must not also fall into the trap of looking down our noses at God’s business of saving men and women from the uttermost pits and do as He pleases.  Our Creator God is the potter and can choose the ugliest spoiled piece of clay and remold it into the most glorious vessel (Jerimiah 18:6-10).  The honor is not for Rahab but the glory given to God all the more for saving such a wretched lost soul and transform her into a most useful agent of bringing about victory for His people.  All the more glory is given to God that neither Joshua, Rahab, nor the spies, nor any woman may boast (Eph 2:8).

A Look at the Magnificent Faith of Rahab Part 2

“and said to the men, “I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath. Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that, as I have dealt kindly with you, you also will deal kindly with my father’s house, and give me a sure sign that you will save alive my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.” Joshua 2:9-13

The sparing of Rahab, a prostitute, and her inclusion in the Messianic line (Matthew1:5) showcases God’s amazing grace extended to people of all nationalities even in the Old Testament. Not only was she a Gentile, but she was a woman of ill repute in society. The principle that pervades is that although God judges sin, He is gracious to those who come to Him in faith, in it we see the mercy of God toward not only Israel but to the Gentiles too.[1] Rahab introduces the concept that the faith of a pagan woman.  In the story of Rahab, we begin to see the mystery of salvation to the Gentiles as well as the Jews who would reject the Messiah.  Arthur Pink speaks to the purpose of Rahab, “In God’s saving of Rahab and bringing her into the congregation of His people, we may perceive a clear and glorious foreshadowing of the fuller scope of His eternal purpose as it is now more plainly manifest in this N.T. era.  Since Rahab was a Canaanite, she was by nature cut off from the Abrahamic stock and therefore a ‘stranger to the covenants of promise.’ (Eph 2:12).  By her conversion and admission into the congregation of Israel, she was obviously both a type and a pledge of the calling off the Gentiles and tier reception into the mystical Body of Christ.”[2]

Moreover, we see that the purpose of God has always been for those outside of Israel too—for the Lord’s people to lead others to Himself.[3] The genealogy recorded in Matthew includes Rahab among four women.[4]  Rahab and one other being Canaanite, a Moabite (Ruth), and a Hittite (Bathsheba).[5]  In all of these, we see God use them to gloriously display the principle of the sovereign grace of God in the way He delights in using foreign and disreputable women to accomplish His eternal purpose.[6]

All New Testament inspired Scriptures—Hebrews 11:31, James 2:25, and Matthew 1:5 references of Rahab speak very positively of her.  God confirms His claim of Rahab in the New Testament’s mention of her great faith.  Rahab was a model of faith, although she was not only a Gentile but also a Canaanite of the Amorites whom God had marked for destruction from the beginning (Gen 15:16).[7]  She was a biblical heroine even though at one point she had been in the business of prostitution and a part of a society that put live babies in jars and build them into their city walls as foundation sacrifices.[8]

However, after her conversion, Rahab could never go back to being the same immoral woman she was before.  She was now a daughter of the King that would be a part of His chosen people and even help bring forth the promised Seed,  “and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.” Col 3:10.  A transformation happened in her heart by the power of God.  What an encouragement for us to pray and show compassion toward the lost from all walks of life in this wicked world.  Salvation is for people of every race—that together we would be a part of one family that is forged by the blood of Christ.

 

[1] Klassen, Mark J.H. “A Reading of the Rahab Narrative (Joshua 2:1-24) Based on a Text-linguistic and Narrative Analysis.”  (Theological Research Exchange Network TREN ID# 048-0218), 11.

[2] Pink, Arthur W. Gleanings in Joshua.  (Chicago: Moody Press, 1964), 62.

[3] Firth, David G., The Message of Joshua: Promise and People.  (Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2015), 50.

[4] Merrill, Eugene H. Kingdom of Priests. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008), 206.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Merrill, Eugene H. Kingdom of Priests. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008), 206.

[7] MacArthur, John.  The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Hebrews. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1983), 364.

[8] Ibid.

A Closer Look at the Magnificent Faith of Rahab, Part 1

“and said to the men, “I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath. Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that, as I have dealt kindly with you, you also will deal kindly with my father’s house, and give me a sure sign that you will save alive my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.” Joshua 2:9-13

The profession of faith from the lips of a Canaanite prostitute is astounding. The Canaanites were a grossly wicked people. The city of Jericho where Rahab lives was “put under the ban” to be utterly devoted to God—in this case for destruction with the entire city and its inhabitants (Joshua 6:17).[1] Their demise was a just consequence of the overflowing wickedness that was prevalent there. Grisanti says it succinctly, “By this time, the cup of iniquity of the Canaanites was full and flowing over (Gen. 15:13-16; cf. Lev. 18:24-25).”[2] The Canaanites had ample time and opportunity to repent. The ungodly influences of the land needed to be removed as not to lead God’s people away from the LORD.[3]  Rahab and her household are surprisingly spared and even brought into His sheepfold. This formerly immoral woman displays God’s love and mercy and His blessing that goes out to all peoples.

The story of Ruth advances the realization of the theme of the book of Joshua, which is the conquest of Canaan and God bringing about the promise to Abraham.[4]  The character of Rahab in the conquest of Jericho plays a significant and positive role model for us. Despite her past immorality, she received the God of Israel in repentance and faith, fought with His people, and enjoyed the same privileges as His people. The moral of this story is crystal clear—that of immeasurable mercy and grace. In Rahab’s narrative, we also see courage and faith coming from a woman transformed by His power.

The question to ask is not why the Lord would use such an immoral woman, but what she had become by God’s grace. God did not judge Rahab based on what she was but on what she was becoming.[5]Even more than the picture of the prefigured church, we see the mystery of Christ and His propitiation for any people who would put their faith in Him, and His transforming work through the Spirit.  The genuine faith of Rahab is evidenced in her words and works.

When she said, “the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below,” she acknowledged Him as having absolute dominion, sovereignty and superiority over any Canaanite gods (Joshua 2:11b).[6] Her confession was rich in Deuteronomic themes and phrases (Deut 4:35, 39:7:9, 10:17).[7]  She goes on to confess that He alone is Lord.[8]  The Rahab of Canaan became anew with faith in the God of Israel. “Rahab, the harlot became Rahab, the believer.”[9] She did not merely acknowledge Him as the true Lord, but she demonstrated by her works that she trusted in Him (James 2:25). In a linguistic study on the book of James, Dr. William Varner chooses not to use the word “works” for its misinterpretation of external merit for salvation.[10]  Dr. Varner’s definition is, “The word in James simply refers to actions that demonstrate Christian love and give evidence of genuine faith.”[11]

By hiding the spies, Rahab put her life on the line based on her faith in Yahweh. Righteousness was imputed to her because of the faith that was evident by her works following her profession.[12]  We can assume that Rahab continued a transformed life of faith and learned God’s law as she was embraced marriage with Boaz’s father and would have lived entirely different than the ways she had known. Dr. William Barrick points out what Rahab’s conversion would have looked like, “Elements involved in conversion in the OT included the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, knowledge of God, confession, faith, and repentance. A total change in a person’s life was the obvious outcome of conversion.”[13]

In Rahab’s conversion, we see the beautiful redemptive purpose of God to use sinners. If God wanted to emphasize deliverance from His hand alone, He could have done so without using Rahab to accomplish Israel’s feat. Rehab’s actions dominate the scene of the commencement of the conquest.[14]  Yahweh chose to use a tainted vessel beautifully transformed from a child of wrath to an adopted child of the LORD for His purpose to show His glorious grace (Eph 2:3-5). The Old Testament seems to insist on using seemingly inappropriate characters to carry out His sovereign plan as seen in His choosing of David or Jerimiah (1 Sam 16:1, Jer 1:6).[15] May we be encouraged that no matter what our past might look like, God wants to use us to adorn His gospel with His matchless beauty and grace.

 

[1] Grisanti, Michael. History of the Covenant People. (TMU Online), 62-63.

[2] Ibid.

[3]Ibid.

[4] Longman, Temper, David E. Garland. The Expositors Bible Commentary 2: Numbers-Ruth. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012), 863).

[5] Mulder, Chester, Clyde R. Ridall, W.T. Purkiser, Harvey E. Finley, Robert L. Sawyer, C.E. Demaray.  Beacon Bible Commentary: Joshua through Ester. (1965.

Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 1970), 30.

[6] Howard, David M, Jr. 1998. “Rahab’s Faith: An Exposition of Joshua 2:1-14.” (Review & Expositor 95 (2): 271–77), 274-275.

[7] Ibid. 

[8] Ibid.

[9] Barrett, Michael. 2015. “Who Fought the Battle of Jericho?: (Joshua 2, 6).” (Puritan Reformed Journal 7 (1): 5–14), 10.

[10] Varner, William.  The Book of James: A New Perspective. (The Woodlands: Kress Biblical Resources, 2010), 107.

[11] Ibid.

[12] MacArthur, John.  The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: James. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1983), 140-142.

[13] Barrick, William D. “Living a New Life: Old Testament Teaching about Conversion.” (The Master’s Seminary Journal 11, no. 1 , Spr 2000): 19–38), 19.

[14] Stek, John H. 2002. “Rahab of Canaan and Israel: The Meaning of Joshua 2.” (Calvin Theological Journal 37 (1): 28–48), 38.

[15] Soggin, Alberto J. Joshua: A Commentary. (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1972). 41.

 

A Prayer for Valentine’s

“Valentine’s Day was a special day for me.  The Lord saved me as a single mom out of an immoral lifestyle on August 16, 2008.  By God’s grace, the Spirit worked a powerful and transforming work of repentance in my life.  Soon after, I started praying for a godly husband and father for Noah.  February 14, 2009, was my first Valentine’s Day as a born-again Christian. I had just turned 23.  I was sad God hadn’t answered my prayer for a date that day.  Noah was only two years old so I decided to take him on the trolley.  He had been wanting to go on the ‘train’ for some time.  That date with little Noah, my heart was flooded with God’s love.  The Lord used a verse reference printed on the bottom of a Forever 21 shopping bag to open the door for me to share the gospel with a young girl.  It was exhilarating.  I remember driving to the train station and asking God to reveal to me the extent of His love.  On our way home, I was awestruck by the thought of how overwhelmingly great His love is.  I told Josh this story, and we agreed on a Valentine’s Day wedding.  Josh was happy our anniversary would be easier to remember.  I thought it sweet of the Lord to answer my prayer for a “date” on Valentine’s Day four years later with a husband.”  (On Loan from the Lord).

  Praise the Lord for this answer to prayer! Marriage was one of the best gifts of my life after salvation. At trying times, I’ve been tempted to wonder why God would take this wonderful gift away? Honestly, I don’t know and may never get the answer to this question. However because of how sure I am about God’s goodness and love I can say like Job, “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.” For I know the Father’s loyal love never abandons His children nor forsakes us because Jesus was forsaken in our place as a result of our sin. There is now nothing that can take His love away (Romans 8). As another Valentine’s Day approaches I can pray again now with even more expectation that God would show me how much he loves me, and look to the cross, “God demonstrates His own love for us that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Yet I can still pray for another “date” with a godly man if He wills. The Bible says young widows should marry so I believe He does will. Some will judge widows and widowers for the desire to remarry, but I doubt they have walked the rocky road themselves. All young widows I’ve asked about this, said they desire remarriage. It’s not that one is looking to replace our old spouse. That would never even be possible—nor our hearts desire. The one who has tasted the goodness of the Lord in marriage by God’s design naturally would want to smile again and embark on a new adventure. It would be a new journey. And a completely different person and thus a distinct relationship. Parents love their children the same even if they have more than one, or if a child has died and they have a new baby. In the same way a widow can love a new man as much as she loved her deceased husband. When we look at what the Bible defines as agape love this become crystal clear. Love means sacrifice—laying down our life for another. “Jesus demonstrates His own love that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” For a widow to love again would mean that she is willing to lay down her life and live a new life devoted to a new man. For a man to be willing to love a widow would mean laying down his life to embrace her and her children. Wouldn’t that just shout the gospel? The story of my late husband redeeming me in marriage beautify displayed the gospel and that is why I would do it again if God gave me the opportunity. Moreover, I would want to take all that I learned from the past (mistakes and victories alike) to be an even better wife. A widow desires to remarry because they want another chance at human love as a reflection of God’s love. And they will likely never take their spouse for granted—for they know by experience that marriage is not eternal but momentary portrait of the forever love of Christ.

*”On Loan from the Lord” is available on Amazon and Kindle

A Much Higher Name

“O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?

Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”

~Psalm 8

A melody of praise engulfs David and he sets the scene for us to see the grandeur of God.  This psalm written by David is the complete opposite of the one before it of lament.  The tone here is free of any anxiety at his humble remembrance of who God is.  The psalmist begins this chapter with nothing but praise.  William S. Plumer in his commentary notes how some believe David wrote this song after his battle with Goliath while others disagree.  Scholars do agree that it was written early on in David’s life.  Young David may have been running away from Saul in a type of quarantine.  Regardless, we are gifted with a beautiful tune for our hearts to sign in humble adoration of our Creator.  Weather in the middle of a crisis such as having to hide in a cave for his life, or after having gloriously struck down a giant, David nonetheless turns his focus off himself and praises God for His awestriking high position. Even if David was enjoying success in life, the victory cry would only be rightly ascribed to the Lord.  On the other hand, trials remind us we are not entitled to anything in this world; and certainly, we have no title to claim to heaven.  Our creator holds the title to heaven and earth; and yet has seen fit to give mankind charge over the earth He created.

God displays His majesty by using that which is weak like the youth to silence the enemy.  He does this to show that salvation and power is not of us but from God alone.  This reality is altogether humbling for David and it should be for us too.  We need to be lowly and dependent on His Spirit to bring us to a proper posture of worship.  “Wholehearted worship will surely flood the believer’s heart when he realizes God’s surpassing greatness.” (Steve Lawson)  David compares the greatness of God’s cosmos to the frailty of humankind, and is left amazed.  The wonder of God’s love for such creatures like ourselves is not lost on David.  He has the right view of humanity that is far from egocentric.  God, not us, is at the center of the universe.  At the same time, David rightly sees our worth as being made in His image to have dominion over the earth.  It is only by His grace that He chooses to put mankind in charge of creation and make us only lower to angels.

The conclusion that David draws is not that mankind deserves a royal seat but rather that God is all the more to be continuously praised for setting such creatures made of dust to such a high calling.  The high position of humanity is elevated to a whole new level when the Holy One being fully divine becomes a man to bring the human race into an incomprehensible union with Himself.  This psalm is referenced in the Net Testament over and over again.  In Hebrews, it is quoted to speak of Jesus the founder of our faith subjecting all things under Him.  Paul also speaks of Christ’s headship and rule over the world and the church, which is also remarkably spoken of in the same chapter as the church completing Christ (1 Cor 15:27-28, Eph 1:22).  Jesus’ quotes from this psalm when confronting the Pharisee’s unbelief and annoyance at children hailing Him (Mt 21:16).  God will be glorified greatly by using frail and weak instruments such as you and me.  For that, we have ample reason to praise Him.

Now, we live with the consequences of the fall and see its effects in the world around us, but God is redeeming mankind and the earth that He created.  While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). This is the most wonderful news and worthy of our praise! Like Job, we may never understand exactly why catastrophes at times are unleashed upon mankind but we do know that our Creator is bringing about His grand redemptive plan to reverse the curse of sin and death.  The psalm ends with the first line it began in a shout of praise to God for His majestic name that is over all the earth.  “O for grace to walk worthy of that excellent name which has been named upon us, and which we are pledged to magnify!” (Supereon)  For the Christian, our heart’s song should begin and end with God.  May our lives’ theme also be to tell of His greatness.

O LORD, our Lord, Your splendor is above anything on this planet, and yet You graciously set Your majestic love upon us insignificant creatures to redeem us for Your glory! May we bring praise to your glorious name and be lights to others in this dark world.

Going from Greif to Gratitude

“O Lord my God, in you do I take refuge; save me from all my pursuers and deliver me, lest like a lion they tear my soul apart, rending it in pieces, with none to deliver.  O Lord my God, if I have done this, if there is wrong in my hands, if I have repaid my friend with evil or plundered my enemy without cause, let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it, and let him trample my life to the ground and lay my glory in the dust. Selah

Arise, O Lord, in your anger; lift yourself up against the fury of my enemies; awake for me; you have appointed a judgment.  Let the assembly of the peoples be gathered about you; over it return on high. The Lord judges the peoples; judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness and according to the integrity that is in me.  Oh, let the evil of the wicked come to an end, and may you establish the righteous—you who test the minds and hearts, O righteous God! My shield is with God, who saves the upright in heart. God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day.  If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword; he has bent and readied his bow; he has prepared for him his deadly weapons, making his arrows fiery shafts.  Behold, the wicked man conceives evil and is pregnant with mischief and gives birth to lies.  He makes a pit, digging it out, and falls into the hole that he has made.  His mischief returns upon his own head, and on his own skull his violence descends.  I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High.” Psalm 7

David gives us a raw example of how to turn to God when suffering unjustly as a result of wickedness.  Notice that the first thing David does is to take refuge in God.  He cries out and says, “O Lord my God.”  The call is not to a distant and uncaring god, but a very personal One who is also Lord of his life.  His dependence is not in himself but on the great character of God.  In fact, what we do see of David himself is fear and anxiety.  He says that if God doesn’t hear him, his soul will be torn to pieces.  David is fully aware that the only One that can deliver him is God and not himself or an army of men.

Next, David examines his own heart and pleads to God for mercy based on his integrity.  “When David was persecuted and attacked, he was motivated to examine his life for sin, after which he called upon God to deliver him.” (Steve Lawson)  David launches a transparent prayer with a bold statement of a clear conscience in regard to the accusations he was being charged against.  He is so sure of his integrity that he invites the Lord’s judgment upon himself if God finds any fault.  David, like Daniel, was blameless when evildoers sought to charge him with wrong in exchange for his life.   That is the goal for a child of God, even though we are all sinners and will inevitably fall short.  “Blamelessness is not faultlessness; faultlessness was the condition of the Lord Jesus Christ. We never can be faultless in this life, we are in impaired human bodies; but by sanctification we can be blameless.” (Oswald Chambers) It’s an excellent habit to continually ask of ourselves and God, “Am I blameless?”

David repeats the phrase “Oh Lord my God” and calls on the Lord again and again.  He cries to God to be his help in times of trouble.  David pleads to God for deliverance from his adversity and those who are seeking to harm him.  He uses strong language.  David is very confident that He will render judgment in David’s favor based on the surety of God’s character.  He pleads for God’s justice in the form of a poem that is written with intense emotion.   David’s comfort in the face of injustice done against him is the character of God.  The Lord always renders just judgments.  To those who do not turn from practicing the things God hates, like mischief and telling lies, He is ready to act swiftly with His sword.  David says that the violence of the wicked will turn against their own heads.  Whoever does not repent has a true reason to fear.

David finds comfort by shifting his focus from the injustice done to him, to the justice that God brings on the unrighteous.  This beautiful lament ends brings us from underneath a crashing wave of sorrow to soar above the calm sky in a song of praise to the Most High—Yahweh for His righteousness.  May this be our song and prayer.

“King of kings, and Lord of lords, You act according to your infinite wisdom that we aren’t always privy to. May we rest, with pure and thankful hearts, in the wonder of who you are, especially when our circumstances don’t make any sense at all.”

 

 

Longing for the Son

“O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath. Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing; heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled. My soul also is greatly troubled. But you, O Lord—how long? Turn, O Lord, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love. For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who will give you praise? I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping. My eye wastes away because of grief; it grows weak because of all my foes. Depart from me, all you workers of evil, for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping. The Lord has heard my plea; the Lord accepts my prayer. All my enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled; they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment.” Psalm 6:1-10

Before sharing my favorite verse, I was making my way through the Psalms and had made it to the 5th of these beautiful heartfelt songs.  Psalm 6 could not come at a better time.  This Psalm is for me in this trying moment.  This song is for the weary of heart.  Sister, this is for you and me to be encouraged by God’s steadfast love.  Personally, I have been comforted by His sweet love while battling a storm.  My body aches and my soul is troubled by it.  Yet, God has been my strength in my weakness, and this shows all the more that is it Him and not of myself.  Even in this trial that my good Father has allowed, I can rejoice knowing He means it for good (Romans 8:28).  While my body screams fear, the Spirit hushes a tender song.

This song is a penitential psalm meaning that is was sung when the psalmist’s heart was penitent which means to be contrite or repentant over sin.  The pervasiveness of sin is so great because of the fall of the human race, that it is hardly inescapable.  Sin is wired into our DNA.  Our only hope is in daily yielding our lives by faith to Christ who exchanges our sin for His perfect righteousness.  R.S. Sproul shares an empathic thought, “We have to have the doctrine of justification by faith in our bloodstream, because there is enough continuing sin in our lives to remind us that without the righteousness of Christ, we have no hope whatsoever.”

A Christian lives in the flesh until called home to glory in heaven.  In fact, the more we grow to love God’s holy character, the more we hate our sin.  Paul expresses his frustration over sin in Romans 7, “For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” (22-25). Praise the Lord that we have a high priest that hears our penitent cries, and that Christ delivers us even when there seems to be no way of escape!

David is the writer of this Psalm and at this time believes that he will die.[1]  He is surrounded on all sides by people literally wanting to end his life.[2]  The worst part about it was that one of those men among his enemies was his own kin—his dear son, Absalom.  This not only consumed David with anxiety and fear for his life but also with sorrow and grief.  Additionally, the psalmist may even be mourning over the way his grief itself seems to overtake him.  David says, “My eye wastes away because of grief.” The amazingly encouraging thing about this Psalm is to see the complete 180 change in David.  He goes from wasting away and being utterly troubled, to complete confidence in God’s faithfulness.  It is only in light of the steadfast love of the Lord, that we too can have strong faith even when everything in the physical realm gives way.  “Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea” (Psalm 46:2).  Why? Our boast is that the Lord who hears our weeping.  God will never forsake us because Christ was forsaken.  He is longing to answer us (in His ways, which are above our own) as a loving Father desires to give good things to His children.  As God’s children, we are to cling to Him and be so dependent on Christ that nothing on this earth would shake us.

Loving Lord, you lavish your grace upon us through the finished work of Christ on the cross.  We praise you that your steadfast love is not dependent on our own work that is as filthy rags.  Thank you for the precious gift of salvation through faith alone in Christ alone, and how that filters every aspect of our lives even as sin temporarily engulfs everything in this world.  We confess little faith at times and cry out to you for mercy and grace to increase our faith.  With confidence we ask that you be glorified with our lives–please deliver us from evil and the cruel intruder of sin, that we would see Your goodness in the land of the living.  In Jesus’ name.

[1] Varner, William.  Awake O Harp.  (San Bernardino: Kindle Direct Publishing, 2017), 21-22.

[2] Ibid.