Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Sunday, 6 January 19:
Psalm 2:10-12 — Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
As mentioned on Saturday, it is very beneficial reading the Old Testament, the New Testament, Proverbs, and Psalms in parallel – this approach provided important perspective.
In concert with our other readings this week, Psalm 2 reminds us that God’s message to a rebellious world, the Gospel message, our message to a rebellious world, begins with a call to repentance. Today the psalmist proclaims to the nations, ‘Be wise (understand your situation, your total depravity and enmity with The Holy, Sovereign God), be warned (of God’s wrath against you), serve (repent, surrender, and submit to God’s righteous sovereignty) … and then rejoice (in the Good News of God’s grace through Jesus), but with continuous trembling (awe and reverence for God).’ Likewise we read in Matthew 3 this week, “In those days John the Baptist came preaching…, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” And John’s call to repentance was no light-hearted casual conversation – it was a dire, urgent warning – “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance…. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire…. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Next, Matthew 4 tells us that Jesus began His ministry with a call for repentance – “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’…. And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.” (Matthew 4:17, 23) The Gospel message always begins with God’s demand for repentance. The most awful news imaginable (God’s looming, wrathful judgment against sinners) reveals the magnitude of the Good News.
Unfortunately, in our generation, the call to repentance seems to have been reduced to a whisper, and the Good News is presented more as ‘other news’. “In our attempts to make the Gospel palatable to non-believers, we sometimes promise all the benefits of heaven without demanding repentance. Thus we have celebrities who ‘love Jesus’ while reveling in immodesty and immorality, and many others who think themselves to be saved even though they never darken the door of a church or love their neighbors.” (Tabletalk Magazine)
Our call for repentance must involve boldly and directly countering culture, addressing the specifically relevant social issues of our day, exposing sin with the light of God’s word, while proclaiming salvation through Christ alone (the most socially offensive part of our message). As an example, John the Baptist boldly proclaimed Christ, while specifically, directly, and publicly challenging Herod’s unrepentant sexual sin – a relevant social issue of his day. For the latter, John the Baptist was beheaded. When we counter our culture and address current social issues in light of the Gospel, we serve as Christ’s ambassadors, bearing witness to the truth of man’s depravity and total dependence on His grace:
– John 18:37, 38 – “Then Pilate said to him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.’ Pilate said to him, ‘What is truth?’”
When we challenge culture and social norms, we enter into the great spiritual battle – “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:4, 5)
If you are questioning why the world is increasingly becoming a dark place, question instead why the Church has lost much of its brightness, since darkness cannot overcome light. I think our readings point out that it is because we have neglected to “Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.” The bookends of “rejoicing” are “fear” and “trembling.” I’m afraid we have made light of God’s holiness and have failed to “bear fruit in keeping with repentance.” When we fail to stand in reverent awe of God, truly amazed by His grace, our motivation to serve and rejoice wanes, as does our eagerness and urgency to share The Good News. With Psalm 2:11 in mind, reconsider Jesus’ words from Matthew 5:13-16 – “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 6 Jan 19: Today, “Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.”