In these verses, John the Baptist is speaking harshly to the religious authorities that have come out to the desert, by the banks of the Jordan River, to see what all the commotion was about. He cuts to the chase and uncovers the awful truth about them…they are pinning their hope on the shirt-tails of their distant ancestor, Abraham, and arrogantly presuming that their lineage will get them to heaven. But it doesn’t work that way…for them, or for us today. Repentance needs to be personal, taken seriously, and followed by evidence of said repentance…or as Paul explained in Acts 26:20 about his ministry to the Gentiles, “I preach that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.”
“He who digs a hole and scoops it out falls into the pit he has made.” (Psalm 7:15) The Hebrew word for “hole” in this verse, and “slimy pit” in the verses above is identical… of describing death as a giant pit. That’s because as much as we hate to admit it…most of the time the consequences we face from disobeying God are of our own making…we stumble into serious predicaments with no one to blame but ourselves. But the Lord is there, ever ready to bring us out if we will just turn to Him. And He will be faithful to place our feet on the firm foundation of Christ …or as Isaiah 26:4 tells us, “The Lord is the Rock eternal.” or Psalm 19:14, “O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” Today, let us look to the steadfast certainty of standing on the Rock of Jesus Christ.
Within the words of this verse lies the Litmus Test of Christianity…for it separates the true Believer from the wanna-be, only on Sundays, if it suits the occasion, believer. We all know people like this…ones that rely on man-made ceremonies and observances to pin their faith on, rather than putting their actual trust in Jesus Christ. The Writer of Hebrews tells us elsewhere, “One Who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to His ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life. The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the Law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.” (Hebrews 7: 16, 18-19) Our hope can only be in Jesus Christ…for as we draw near to Him, He forgives us of our sins, by suffering in our place the penalty to which we were subjected to, and then giving us the gift of eternal life.
God’s total sovereignty is on full display in these verses. The wicked of the world may think they’re getting away with violating the rights of others through oppression, greed, exploitation, dishonesty, and injustice…but their time is coming. That’s because evil will never triumph over good….sin will never be able to declare victory…and wickedness will never overwhelm righteousness.
Elsewhere in II Timothy, Paul exhorts the young Pastor to, “Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” (II Timothy 2:3) Paul just had to glance around him to see Roman soldiers in the prison where he was confined. Now the Roman army was the most disciplined and efficient killing machine that the ancient world had ever known…the men were well trained and equipped, and operated in strict formation on the battlefield. Their focus was on military service and nothing else. So when Paul likened Timothy’s service to the Lord as that of a soldier, he was telling all of us that the world wants us to conform to its standards…thus shirking our duties. But as a soldier of Christ, we have to be willing to suffer persecution and hardship, and not to be ashamed of the Gospel. For Jesus said in Mark 8:38, “If anyone is ashamed of Me and My Words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
Psalm 32 is one of seven “Penitential Psalms” in the Old Testament. It’s a big word that simply means repentance. As it shows in the first part of these verses, sin has a way of weighing us down, of burdening us with guilt and shame…until we come to the end of ourselves and recognize just how sinful we are. It’s at that moment, when we become acutely aware of our sinfulness we must then confess and admit it to the Lord. But this can be the hardest part in any Believers life, for none of us want to admit we’re wrong or can’t do life on our own…but it is a necessary and inescapable part of salvation. For without repentance there is no forgiveness…without repentance there can be no mercy.
There is coming a time when Christ will manifest justice to all…to all that currently live on the earth, but more importantly, to all the faithful saints who have been martyred for the sake of the Gospel…for in Revelation 6:9-10 we read, ” When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the Word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, ‘How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until You judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?’ We could certainly ask the same question, “How long Lord before justice is served?” But Christ is understanding and very patient, not wanting any to perish…and so we watch and wait.
“Let us walk in the light of the Lord.” (Isaiah 2:5) For when we have a relationship with Jesus Christ we have Koinonia – fellowship with all fellow Believers, and that close partnership one with another is what binds us together through thick and thin…good and bad…plenty and lack. This fellowship we share in was wrought by the horrific death Jesus endured on the Cross…not that His blood had any mystical nature itself…but only the blood can vividly illustrate what Jesus sacrificed for our redemption. So let us continue to walk in the light together…in fellowship with our Lord and each other.
This illustration in Job explains well just how fragile human beings are when they are far from God. Or as Jeremiah observes, “The heart that turns away from the Lord is like a bush in the wastelands.” (Jeremiah 17:6) Life without God is full of pessimism and hopelessness, and a path leading only to death. While the way to God is full of hope, eternal promise and a flourishing life. Proverbs 10:28 sums it up best, “The prospect of the righteous is joy, but the hopes of the wicked come to nothing.”
The Church that Paul established in Philippi was probably the first in all of Europe…and it started when Paul and Silas went out of the city on the Sabbath and met Lydia near the river bank. (Acts 16:11-15) But one of the differences between the Church in Philippi and other Churches Paul established was that they supplied him with financial assistance several times as he traveled and even when he was in prison, (Philippians 4:18) for Paul usually refused assistance… relying on his tent-making skills as to not be a burden on the people. This close fellowship…this Koinonia, showed how the early Church in Philippi not only heard the Gospel Message and believed, but put it into practical practice.