Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Daily Bible Reading: Psalms 12-16 and 1 Thessalonians 4

Psalm 12 – “Help, O Lord, for the godly are fast disappearing! The faithful have vanished from the earth! Neighbors lie to each other, speaking with flattering lips and deceitful hearts” (12:1-2).

People don’t seem to care any more whether they lie or do violence to others. Reading the words of this psalm make me realize that probably every generation has looked around and seen terrible things, things that put us to shame as a people. But we know that “the arc of the moral universe bends towards justice.” One of our own prophets has assured us of this. And similarly, the author of these psalms believes that the Lord will “rescue us.”

“The Lord’s promises are pure, like silver refined in a furnace, purified seven times over . . . we know you will protect the oppressed . . . even though the wicked strut about, and evil is praised throughout the land” (12:6-8).

Psalm 13 – “O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way? How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day” (13:1-2).

The pendulum swings from doubt to faith, from discouragement to hope. Every one of us must negotiate this crooked path of life, and what we realize in reading these beautiful poems is that our steadfast help along the way is always there for us.

Psalm 14 – “Fools say in their hearts, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, and their actions are evil; not one of them does good! They Lord looks down from heaven on the entire human race; he looks to see if anyone is truly wise, if anyone seeks God. But no, all have turned away” (14:1-2). This must have been a very down moment for this writer.

This psalm shows that there must have been even in these “old days” many people who thought there was no god. They were yet another stumbling block for those who felt the presence of something great beyond and around them.

Psalm 15 – “Who may worship in your sanctuary, Lord? Who may enter your presence on your holy hill? Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right, speaking the truth from sincere hearts” (15:1-2). Those who do not gossip or harm their neighbors or speak evil of their friends; those who despise the wicked and honor followers of the Lord, those who keep their promises “even when it hurts” (15:4). Those who lend money without charging interest and those who cannot be bribed “to lie about the innocent” (15:5).

Psalm 16 – “Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you” (16:1-2).

“Lord, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing” (16:5).

“I will bless the Lord who guides me; even at night my heart instructs me. I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me” (16:7-8).

“[Y]ou will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your holy one to rot in the grave. You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever” (16:10-11). 

1 Thessalonians 4 – Continue to make progress “in the kind of life that you are meant to live” (4:1).

God wants us to be holy, to keep “away from fornication and selfish lust . . . to know how to use the body that belongs to him in a way that is holy and honorable” (4:4-5).

He wants us not to take advantage of one another. Live quietly, earn your living and be respectable in the eyes of all men.

Those who have died in the faith will rise like Jesus – “God will bring them with him” (4:15). They will be the first to rise when Christ comes. “So we shall stay with the Lord for ever” (4:17).

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