Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Righteous Indignation

And the Spirit of God came upon Saul when he heard those tidings, and his anger was kindled greatly. I Samuel 11.6
If you were ask me if I was righteous in my "indignation", I would probably say "yes". In the moment, we can all feel as though our anger is justified but that is not really the idea behind "righteous indignation".

As it turns out, this is one of Saul's brighter moments because he is exhibiting anger in a way consistent with the nature and example of Jesus himself.

Jesus got angry?

Yes He did! On three different occasions we are told that Jesus exhibited anger but it was always in a specific context. It is by this context, as illustrated by Saul, that we must measure our own anger.

First lets see the three instances:

And the Jews’ passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem, And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables; And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise. And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up. John 2.13-17

And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand. And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him. And he saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth. And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace. And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other. Mark 3.1-5

And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them. Mark 10.13-16
What these stories show us about Jesus' anger

In each case Jesus got angry when there was someone standing in the way of folks (or children) getting to God. He was angry at the sellers in the temple as their selling table became a barrier to people having free access to the temple; He was angry at the religious leaders as they sought to prevent Jesus from healing on the Sabbath; and He became angry at His own disciples for trying to prevent the children from approaching Him.

Jesus' anger was always on behalf of others.

It is this "anger on behalf of another" that Saul is exhibiting in our text.

With Jesus there are several other instances where, though not told explicitly we see implicitly that Jesus was angry, He certainly had curt words for the Pharisees and priests and religious leaders who were laying burdens on the people and generally made being one of God's chosen people pretty miserable.

Importantly, we are not told of any occasion where Jesus became angry about anything said or done to Him. In fact Jesus never even defended Himself, He just spoke truth, acted in a way pleasing to the Father and left the reaction to those around Him... amazing. Isn't our Lord wonderful!

Now my anger is usually a response to something someone did to me. And... I can feel pretty righteous about feeling as I do. Fact is people really do sometimes do terrible things to us or say terrible things about us... I mean they really are out of line! And it is those times that I can really pull out the righteous indignation card and wave it around, "hey, I am justified in feeling this way."

Yet Jesus shows us a better way.

This is one of those reminders that, upon hearing it I instantly become exceedingly aware of the fact that I am not going to be able to pull that off on my own. This is not a natural character trait for any of us but it is a character trait
available to all of us:
But the fruit of the Spirit is, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. Gal 5.22
And, in order to live like Jesus did, walking in the Spirit, constantly in fellowship with the Father, we need the whole fruit basket. No grabbing an apple or banana before we rush out the door in the morning.

If you have "let the sun go down on your anger" would you do yourself a favor this morning and just let it go. Just give it to the Lord, forgive, and move on.

That offense was nailed to the cross, its penalty was paid by Jesus who would again today say:

"if he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge that to my account" Philemon 18
Be free today to live without the burden of anger.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Second Best

Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see him whom the LORD has chosen? Surely there is no one like him among all the people.” So all the people shouted and said, “Long live the king!” Then Samuel told the people the ordinances of the kingdom, and wrote them in the book and placed it before the LORD. And Samuel sent all the people away, each one to his house. I Samuel 10.24-25
Israel had demanded a king and when they did so the Lord told Samuel, "they have not rejected you they have rejected me from being King over them" (8.7). Here is an interesting bit of background...

350 years earlier God had told the people of Israel:

“When you enter the land which the LORD your God gives you, and you possess it and live in it, and you say, ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations who are around me,’ you shall surely set a king over you whom the LORD your God chooses, one from among your countrymen you shall set as king over yourselves; you may not put a foreigner over yourselves who is not your countryman. Deuteronomy 17.14-15ff

Did you see that, "and you say, "I will set a king over me like all the other nations..." which, by the way, is exactly what they did say (8.5)

It was not His best for His chosen people yet God knew they would reject Him and seek after a distant second best, a man. Israel would act in rebellion against God and yet God had already made provision for when that time came. He gave them very specific instructions so that they could be as blessed as possible in their new situation.

These most interesting attributes of God, his omnipresence and omniscience; allow God to look down the tunnel of time and know ahead of time what we will do. This is a dynamic of God's sovereignty that relates to our own salvation.

God knows what is best for man and has made an offer to Him; that if any man or woman will simply accept the free gift of salvation, allow him to be the God of our lives, our sovereign, our King; our sins will be forgiven; we will be spared the righteous judgment of Almighty God and we will find ourselves in the most blessed life possible.

But God also knows what each man will choose to do, he can look down the tunnel of time and see with absolute clarity the destination of every persons' soul. But, as with the Israelites, the choice is up to the each individual, each of us has a the opportunity to decide how we want to live and where we want to spend eternity.

Trying to reconcile the two kind of tweaks the circuits a bit to be sure. God knows, we chose. But it is also true that God chose us before the foundations of the world... and as you go a couple more times around that conversation... little puffs of smoke start to drift out of our ears. It is difficult to understand, but for me, not difficult to accept.

All that to say that this story illustrates this mystical and marvelous aspect of our great God. It has been said that a God small enough to fully understand isn't big enough to fully worship. I can't agree more.

Now I want to take your thinking in a whole different direction if you have the time to read on...

The BEST for Israel was to continue to be a theocracy, to continue to allow God himself to be their king, but they chose another option. In that decision, a decision that was not God's best for them, there would be a price to pay (see chapter 8 blog for more info) and direct access to God and His blessings and His best were all now going to have to pass through the hands of their king. They were going to have to hope that their king would continue to follow God, most of them would not, and that their king would look out for their best, again, most of them would not.

Allow me to bring this home now...

I was talking to a brother the other day who had been speaking to a young gal who had gotten pregnant and the father was off the scene, had been involved in drugs and such and was now homeless and in a pretty desperate situation. Your heart just goes out to those in such dire circumstances. This brother continued by saying, "she just doesn't have many options".

Now, at the risk of sounding callous, and certainly this kind of "truth" would have to be shared with great love and discernment; but I said, "well yes she did". This brother knew exactly what I meant and finished my thought for me. "she had options, many opportunities to make the right decision, now she isn't left with many."

In fact she had, and now her options were severely limited by the choices she made earlier. There are just some things that are no longer available to her; others that will take a long, determined, grace filled journey to reach.

So it is with Gods will...

If I truly believe that God desires the very best for me, had the best plan for my life, that He can see ahead and direct me to the best life possible; then it would also follow that to stray from God's will will only lead to something less than best and perhaps much, much worse.

The truth is that as one act of rebellion added to another stiff necked refusal which is compounded by a dose of self-will, I can find my self where my choices become very limited.

But it is not that God abandons us at that point though. As with Israel, even in their rejection and rebellion he still said, "let me tell you how to get the most out of life from that point on." (Deut. 17.14ff)

And I will continue to experience God's best for me under the new circumstances as long as I continue to walk with him, abide in Him, trust in Him. But there will be other aspects a God-defined, blessed life that will no longer be available to me, I opted out of those.

You see there just aren't any promises of blessing for those who walk in rebellion or disobedience, you won't find it in scripture.

All to say, the best life, the best-blessed life is found in the center of God's will.