The Writer of this Psalm had made a well thought out choice…a choice that had eternal consequences attached to it. I choose Godliness over godlessness, righteousness over lawlessness, and selflessness over selfishness. But too many Christians today want it both ways. It’s called being double-minded or lukewarm Christianity…of embracing equally the ways of God and the ways of the world. But we can’t have it both ways, for II Timothy 3:1-5 warns us, “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power.” We can no longer get away with just having the “appearance” of being a Christian…choices need to be made.
The beginning of any journey begins with that first step…but you have to be willing to move! In this verse God told Abraham to take that first step, and it was a big one. For not only did God want him to leave his homeland, relatives, and everything he was comfortable and used to, but he had to leave not having any idea where he was going. Many times throughout our life God’s call will involve stepping out into the unknown…of taking that proverbial leap of faith, and trusting that God will be there to lead the way.
James writes about attempting to tame the tongue…but the tongue is more powerful than we have the ability to control it. And here in this verse he gives the example of just how careless our tongue can be. One minute we can be praising God…and with the next breath we can be speaking harshly and wishing evil against a brother or sister. How can this be possible? I’ll give you a little analogy. Say I’m going to make potato salad, so I place potatoes and eggs in a pot of cold water and place it on the stove. Over the course of 15-20 minutes they cook together in that pot of simmering water…but the potatoes soften while the eggs harden. Same pot, same water, but out came two different responses…one tender, one hard.
This verse is a very vivid reminder of God’s sovereignty over man. The prophet Isaiah wrote, “Woe to him who quarrels (or complains) with his Maker, to him who is but a potsherd among potsherds on the ground. (Isaiah 45:9) Well, that kinda puts us in our place doesn’t it?! God is the potter and we are the clay…it’s as simple as that, but we humans don’t take kindly to being told what to do by anyone in authority, let alone God. Our rebellious spirit bristles at God’s perceived supreme power over us. But in Romans 9:20, Paul asks in amazement, “But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to Him who formed it, Why did You make me like this?” We are like clay in the hand of the Master potter…and He will fashion us as He sees fit…His Will and Way always prevailing.
Many times throughout the Old Testament the Lord would ask this question of the prophets. Besides Jeremiah, the Lord asked Amos and Zechariah the same question…”What do you see?” Now in front of them were easily recognizable objects such as a almond branch, a boiling pot, a plumb line, or a basket of ripe fruit. But it wasn’t until the Lord explained the meaning and symbolism and pulled back the veil to reveal the true interpretation of the object, that the men were enlightened to the astonishing disclosure. Even today the Lord may show you something and ask, “What do you see?” That’s when you start with the simple answer and ask Him to show you the deeper meaning… or His perspective and vision.
2020 has started out to be a year of tremendous difficulties, afflictions, and grief. And in many ways we all have been affected. But the next time you’re tempted to go on Social Media and whine…ask yourself this question. Am I attention-seeking, and eliciting participants in my personal pity-party…or am I like Paul who made his friends aware of the hardships he was enduring in order to show them where his trust rested? For in the next verse, Paul points out that this happened that, “we might not rely on ourselves but on God…” Enduring pain, bearing up under persecution, and experiencing grief are all part of the human experience…no one is immune. But it’s how we react to it that makes the real difference. It’s called suffering well. Of placing our reliance on God rather than man…and of pointing to Him as the one we depend on…so that all the glory goes to Him, not us.
If you have the chance today to read Psalm 104 you’ll see the same type of attempt to put into words the height, breadth, and magnitude of God’s power. The writer of Psalm 104 uses the imagery of God wrapping Himself in light as with a garment and stretching out the heavens like a tent…also making the clouds His chariot and riding on the wings of the wind. Both Scriptures try to put into words what can’t be explained by words…for we don’t have the means to illustrate exactly who God is and His infinite power, wisdom, and might. So all we can do is praise Him! Or as Psalm 104 says, “I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to My God as long as I live.”
Here Jesus was instructing His disciples on the signs of the End of the Age…telling them to look up! But why? When we’re preoccupied with our own thoughts, feelings, and emotions…we’re looking down or inward. But it’s not until we lift up our head from that fetal position that we can clearly see God. For it tells us in Psalm 121:1, “I lift up my eyes to the hills – Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord.” Also in Psalm 123:1 this idea is repeated, “I lift up my eyes to You, to You whose throne is in heaven.” That’s because sadly, when we’re fixated on ourselves, we totally miss out on what God is doing around us.
This verse in a very straightforward manner shows the frailty of man. For at any point in time, we are but one breath away from dying…so how can we be trusted? Our lives are like fleeting shadows, (Psalm 144:4) or like a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. (James 4:14) Bottom line is, we can’t put our trust in man…for our life here on earth is but a momentary passing. No, our trust must be in the eternal God, Who created man from the dust of the ground and breathed the breath of life into him. (Genesis 2:7)
Two Scriptures that go along with this one are Romans 15:5, “May the God Who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus.” and Colossians 3:15, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.” We are to actively endeavor to live at peace with one another…living in harmony as one collective body called the Church, of which Jesus Christ is the head. But unity and peace can be difficult to obtain, so what can we do? First, understand that the only person you can change is you. That’s why Hebrews 12:14 tells us that we should make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy. Or as the old song goes, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me…”