John T. Willis

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Standing on the Solid Ground of Integrity--Psalm 26

The superscription of Psalm 26 contains on the term: "Of [To, For] David." Thus this superscription gives no clue about the historical situation. The composer of Psalm 26 has been falsely accused by his enemies. He begins by pleading with Yahweh to vindicate him so that he will not be "swept away" with sinners, whose devices are evil and who are full of bribes. This psalmist presents four proofs of his innocence. Naturally, Psalm 26 falls into four tiny segments.

I. The innocence of an examined heart. Psalm 26:1-3.
    a. The psalmist wastes no time to address Yahweh: "Vindicate me." He never tells the hearers or readers the alleged crime of which the poet is supposed to be guilty. 26:1a.
    b. The poet's first proof is that he has walked in his integrity, and trusted in Yahweh without wavering. 26:1b-c.
    c. To make sure that he is not hypocritical, he beseeches Yahweh to "prove," "try," "test" his heart and mind. These three verbs come from the practice of putting a precious metal just taken from the ground in a very hot fire so that the alloys may be sluffed off to retain the pure metal, as silver or gold. The same language appears in Psalm 17:3 and 139:1-6. 26:2.
    d. Then the psalmist declares that he is depending only on Yahweh's steadfast love and faithfulness--a major theme occurring throughout the Psalter. 26:3.

II. The psalmist's second proof is that he does not associate with sinful people. Psalm 26:4-5.
     a. The writer of this psalm describes the wicked using four terms. The wicked are worthless and hypocrites. They pretend that they are godly, when in reality they are very evil. 26:4.
     b.  In the next two lines, the poet defines the ungodly as evildoers and wicked. These terms appear often throughout the Psalter. 26:5.

III. The poet's third proof is that he has washed his hands with innocence. Psalm 26:6-7.
       a. The composer affirms that he has performed the ritual acts in the temple prescribed for one accused of his crime. "Washing one's hands" is a symbolic act for innocence. This appears in Deuteronomy 21:6-7; Psalm 73:13; Matthew 27:24. The psalmist declares that he has gone around Yahweh's altar at the temple. He has joined in process with his fellow worshippers (see Psalm 118:27). 26:6.
       b. The author of Psalm 26 sings loudly thanksgiving to Yahweh, and tells the gathered worshippers all of Yahweh's wondrous deeds. 26:7.

IV. Fourth and Finally, the composer professes that he genuinely loves the temple. Psalm 26:8-12.
      a. The psalmist declares that he loves the temple because this is where Yahweh dwells and his glory abides. 26:8.
      b. The poet begs that Yahweh will not sweep him away with sinners, who are full of evil devices and bribes. 26:9-10.
      c. As in verse 1, the psalmist proclaims that he has walked in his integrity. 26:11a.
      d. The psalmist then beseeches Yahweh to redeem him and be gracious to him. To "redeem" means to save a person from the death penalty which his accusers are desiring. 26:11b.
      e. With great conviction, the psalmist concludes by confident feelings: His foot stands on level ground, and he will bless, i. e.,  praise Yahweh, in the great congregation. 26:12.

Share YOUR intentions and shortcomings and dreams and faults and determinations with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Majoring in Minors--Part 2

It is very easy for well-meaning Christian people to focus on a "religious" issue and totally miss the "big picture" of "real life" under God our Father through Jesus Christ our Lord. Jesus and many other biblical speakers and composers emphasize this same problem, because this is an ongoing human problem. In the previous blog, we discussed two issues: wealth and beauty. Let us continue here.

3. Speech.
    a. In every generation, many individuals develop eloquent speech. In doing this, they move and persuade large audiences. This is great IF the speaker is genuine and if the message is God-centered.
    b. Jesus addresses the public practice of prayer in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:5-8:
        "And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray
          in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others.
          Truly, I tell you, they have received their reward.
          But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is
                                    in secret;
          and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
          When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do;
          for they think that they will be heard because of their many words.
          Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him."
      c. Proverbs 28:9 contains this warning:
          "When one will not listen to the law,
                even one's prayers are an abomination."
      d. Proverbs 15:8 says:
          "The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord,
                 but the prayer of the upright is his delight."
          Similarly, Proverbs 15:29 says:
          "The Lord is far from the wicked,
                 but he hears the prayer of the righteous."
     e. Obviously, in God's eyes, what counts in prayer is not eloquent words, but genuine hearts, righteous lifestyle, integrity in daily living. Our emphasis must not be on external eloquent speech, but a godly life and a pure heart.

4. Correctly Performed External Isolated Acts of Religion.
     a. It is well-known that the Church of Christ denomination has emphasized the necessity of baptizing adult people by immersion in order to be saved. Without going into a discussion of this affirmation, two important truths stand out.
     b. First, if a person is baptized by immersion, this is at the very least ONLY a TINY aspect of Christian living. To cite just one example, Paul addressed this very issue in 1 Corinthians 1:14-15:
         "I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that none can say that
          you were baptized in my name."
         Paul emphasizes that what is important in NOT baptism ONLY, but THE WHOLE GOSPEL. He says in verse 17: "For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power." Many people in Churches of Christ have been baptized by immersion, and their marriages are in shambles, their lives are corrupt, their ways of life are darkness and not light to a gloomy world.
     c. Second, if anyone carefully studies Jesus' Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20, he finds that Jesus calls his followers to "MAKE DISCIPLES" of all nations. Baptism is ONLY the first step of discipleship. What follows baptism is that one must "TEACH all nations to OBEY EVERYTHING that Jesus has commanded." This calls for a lifetime of commitment in heart and life. To submit oneself to go into water and be immersed is very simple. The challenging aspect is to LEARN and to OBEY God through Jesus Christ. 

To be continued

Share YOUR thoughts and shortcomings and reversals and experiences and fears with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis