Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Oh, What a Wonder

"The king is enthralled by your beauty" (Psalm 45:11).

Psalm 45 is a love song, written to be sung at a royal wedding.

The groom is handsome, gracious, humble, courageous, strong and good (45:2-9) He is a great king (45:11), and more... He is the eternal God: "Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness; you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions" (45:6,7) 

How odd: a God who has a God, a mystifying paradox that makes no sense apart from the incarnation. This can only be Jesus (Hebrews 1:6,7). 

The bride, a royal princess, is led to the king, "with robes interwoven with gold, in embroidered garments," filled with joy at the promise that she will be joined to her loved one forever (45:13-15). 

The groom is smitten: "He is wild about you!" (45:11 The Message).

Who is the bride? Well...you and me, of course, loved to perfection by the only love that can fully and finally assuage our loneliness. 

Think about that! The High King is wild about you! Incredible! 

Oh, if there’s only one song I can sing,
When in His beauty I see the great King,
This shall my song through eternity be,
“Oh, what a wonder that Jesus loves me!"

David Roper
8.30.17

Monday, August 28, 2017

The Corruption of Power

Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely”
—Lord Acton

This is probably one of the most–invoked, but least understood lines in literature. Acton truly believed that power corrupts, but his more important point is that power also corrupts those who are enamored of the powerful. 

The quote occurs in a letter Acton wrote to Anglican bishop Mandell Creighton. Creighton had asked Acton to review a history book he was writing, in which he was sympathetic to certain leaders, most of whom were very bad men. Acton wrote in response…

I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge the King unlike other men, with a favorable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption it is the other way, against the holders of power, increasing as the power increases. Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely…

There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it. Here are the greatest names coupled with the greatest crimes; you would spare those criminals, for some mysterious reason. I would hang them higher than Haman, for reasons of quite obvious justice… The inflexible integrity of the moral code is, to me, the secret of authority. If we debase the currency for the sake of genius, or success, or rank, or reputation… we serve the worst cause rather than the purest.

It is beyond absurd to say that what one believes about good and evil has nothing whatever to do with his or her actions. Character matters. Therefore, we can and should hold kings, priests, popes, politicians, pastors, presidents and all others in positions of authority to what Acton called “the inflexible integrity of the moral code.”

I think of certain athletes whose off–field behavior is reprehensible, yet they get a pass because they “get it done” on the field of play.

And I think of certain celebrities and politicians whose personal lives are fetid and foul, yet they likewise are excused because they “get it done” in their field of endeavor.

In both cases it is those who approve them that are corrupted—absolutely.

David Roper


Friday, August 25, 2017

"Though it Be a Cross"

In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted,
but you have given me an open ear [Heb: “my ears you have dug”].
Burnt offering and sin offering
you have not required.
Then I said, “Behold, I have come;
in the scroll of the book it is written of me:
I delight to do your will, O God…”—Psalm 40:5-8

Slaves in Israel's economy served for seven years and were emancipated (Exodus 21:1). There was one exception: A slave might wish to remain as a servant in the house because he loved his master. In which case an ear was pierced as a sign of his or her fealty: 

"If it happens that he says to you, ‘I will not go away from you,’ because he loves you and your house, since he prospers with you, then you shall take an awl and thrust it through his ear to the door, and he shall be your servant forever. Also to your female servant you shall do likewise.(Deuteronomy 15:16). 

This may be the historical background of that difficult Hebrew phrase, "My ears you have dug."[1]

The New Testament puts the words of this psalm in Jesus' mouth when He “came into the world,” to express his willingness to accept His Father's will (Hebrews 10:5-10). On this occasion, His Father’s will was the cross.

Can I take delight in God’s will “e'en though it be a cross that raise'th me”? ”The readiness is all," Hamlet said. Grace will do the rest.

David Roper
8.25.17

[1] Some commentators disagree with this interpretation in that "dug" is not the normal Hebrew word for "pierced" and, in historic practice, only one ear was pierced. The Greek version (the Septuagint), the version quoted by the author of Hebrews, does not translate the phrase, but offers a paraphrase: "A body you have prepared for me," a body in which Jesus rendered complete obedience. The meaning of the passage, “I delight to do your will,” is the same, however, no matter how you translate verse 5.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Help!

My heart is about to break; I'm burned out,
the light has gone out of my eyes. 
My loved ones and my friends avoid me like the plague,
those who used to be close to me now run away (Psalms 38:11,12).

The more we need help, the less we attract it. That's because neediness is off-putting. Hardly anyone likes to be around a deeply troubled soul. Most of us have enough troubles of our own. 

There is One, however, who's never disaffected by our neediness, who understands our sighs and the deep source of our tears (38:9). We should then, "draw near to Him with confidence that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:16).

"When bale (need) is att hyest, boote (help) is nyest.” So goes “The Ballad of Sir Aldingar." And so I pray with David, "Make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation!" (38:22).

David Roper
8.22.17

Friday, August 18, 2017

“Hello Darkness, My Old Friend”

"Darkness has become my only friend" Psalm 88:18.

This is the saddest song in the psalter, a mournful tune with no resolution. No praise, no thanksgiving, no celebration, no eulogy. We look for a glimmer of light but find none. The poet’s soul was “full of trouble"; his dark mood all engulfing. Unlike other psalms, there is no happy ending. The poem ends with a plaintive sigh: “Darkness has become my only friend.” (88:18). And “with this complaint, the harp falls from the poet's hands” (Keil & Delitzsch).

God has never promised that our days will be filled with unbroken sunshine and our skies will always be blue. Indeed, unrelieved suffering may be our lot in this world. 

But like Israel's poet, we can reach out for God in the darkness (88:13), in which case the darkness will have pushed us a little closer to Him. And if the goal of life is not ease but intimacy with God then the darkness has indeed become our “friend.”

And though the psalm is silent about life-beyond-this-life it is a reminder that something better awaits us: “We wait for… the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:22f.).

David Roper

8.18.17

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Good Life

What man is there who desires life and loves many days, 
that he may see good?
Keep your tongue from evil 
and your lips from speaking deceit.
Turn away from evil and do good; 
seek peace and pursue it. —Psalm 34:12,14

The good life is the good life. Put another way, happiness is doing the right thing, something wise men and women have always known.

The world is constantly telling us, in one way or another, that happiness is doings things our way, but that's a lie. It only leads to emptiness, anxiety and heartache. (W.H. Auden writes of children, "lost in a haunted wood, / Children afraid of the night / Who have never been happy or good.")

Happiness is doing things God’s way, a fact that can be empirically verified every day. Just try it and you'll see. That's what David means when he says, "taste and see that the Lord is good” (34:8a).

“Seeing is believing,” we say. Show me a proof and I'll believe it. That's how we know stuff in this world. 

God puts it the other way around. "Believing is seeing" ("Taste and then you will see.") Trust Me, take Me at My word—do the very next thing I ask you to do—and you will see. I will give you grace to do the right thing and more: I will give you Myself, the only source of enduring happiness..

"Oh, the blessedness (happiness) of those who take refuge in Him!" (34:8b)

David Roper

8.14.17

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Terrible Speed of Mercy 

“I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’…
And You forgave the iniquity of my sin.” —Psalm 32:5

I asked Siri “What is the shortest unit of time?” She pondered the question for a moment and answered, “The time for light to travel one Plank length.” 

Not even close. 

The shortest unit of time is the interval between the confession of our transgressions and God’s complete forgiveness. David said, “I will confess my sins….” And before he could put his confession into words, God’s forgiveness washed over him.

Amy Carmichael wrote, “A day or two ago I was thinking rather sadly of the past—so many sins and failures and lapses of every kind. I was reading Isaiah 43, and in verse 24 I saw myself: ‘Thou hast wearied me with thine many iniquities.’ And then for the first time I noticed that there is no space between v. 24 and v. 25, ‘I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for Mine own sake; and I will not remember thy sins.’”

When we confess our sins, God does not say, “Let me think about this for a moment.” Or, “You’ll have to be on probation for awhile.” No, He is “faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness”—instantaneously

No one puts this any better than Flannery O’Connor at the end of her novel The Violent Bear It Away when her prophet Francis Tarwater receives his long-awaited call: “GO WARN THE CHILDREN OF GOD OF THE TERRIBLE SPEED OF MERCY.” 

David Roper

8.10.17

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Till the Storm of Life is Past

For this cause everyone who is godly shall pray to You
In a time when You may be found;
Surely in a flood of great waters
They (the great waters) shall not come near him (the godly).
You are my hiding place —Psalm 32:6,7

“Everyone who is godly…” That’s a show stopper. “Godly.” I can’t claim that title. The word translated “godly,” however, comes from a Hebrew root that actually means “loved.” It refers to those who are loved by God and who love Him in return. That puts me back in the picture. 

“For this cause…” Why do I have this effortless access to God? Because I am so good? No, it is because He is so good, for He has forgiven all my sins. I am in His favor (32:5). 

“In a time when You may be found…” And when might that be? “In a flood of great waters,” When I am in over my head. Then He is my hiding place.

Jesus, lover of my soul,
Let me to Thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll,
While the tempest still[1] is high.
Hide me, O my Savior, hide,
Safe into the haven guide… —Charles Wesley

https://youtu.be/ffUsrMJAxeQ

David Roper
8.13.17


[1] Wesley’s “still” is based on an old translation of Psalm 32:6. “(While) still the tempest is nigh.”  When we’re treading water!

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Name

Our God's proper name is "YAHWEH," the name He gave himself.

God revealed the significance of His name to Moses from the burning bush: "Moses said to God, 'If I come to the people of Israel and they ask me, "What is his name?" what shall I say to them?' God said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:2,13).

God's name is based on the verb “to be,” and, as God Himself explained, means “I AM.”

I am what? Whatever you need.

What do you need today? Courage, purity, patience, wisdom, faith, hope, love?  "HE IS" whatever you need.

Truly, "our help is in the name of the LORD!" (Psalm 124:8).

David Roper

5/6/16

Light Without Love Read: 1 John 4:10 “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever” (1 Chro...