Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Sunday, 21 March 21:
Psalm 36:1-4 – Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart; there is no fear of God before his eyes. For he flatters himself in his own eyes that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated. The words of his mouth are trouble and deceit; he has ceased to act wisely and do good. He plots trouble while on his bed; he sets himself in a way that is not good; he does not reject evil.
Today the psalmist considers the heart of the “wicked” person who is more influenced by temptation than by the fear of God and who has convinced himself through self-flattery that his sin is really no big deal. The psalmist describes how sin leads this person down a destructive path where the person ceases to act wisely, loses the ability to discern evil, and makes decisions that only lead to trouble. What is most instructive is how the psalmist ends this psalm – “Let not the foot of arrogance come upon me, nor the hand of the wicked drive me away. There the evildoers lie fallen; they are thrust down, unable to rise.” (Psalm 36:11-12) The psalmist isn’t just pointing a finger at others but rather humbly praying that God will protect him from the destructive influence of sin and sinful people in his life.
It would be easy to assume the Psalmist merely had someone else in mind when referring to the wicked, particularly after reading Psalm 35 – “Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me fight against those who fight against me!” (Psalm 35:1) Similarly, we have a tendency to ascribe to someone else the verses in the Bible that speak to the wicked and foolish, much like when we hear that convicting sermon and regret the person we know who “really needs to hear it” isn’t there; or perhaps we hope the person sitting next to us is paying attention. However, verses such as these are most profitable if we approach them in true humility and ask ourselves how much ‘transgression speaks deep in our hearts.’ (Psalm 36:1) What pet sins might we be holding onto while flattering ourselves with positive affirmations and self-talk about how good we are?
In Psalm 35, the psalmist laments the sinful hearts, thoughts, and deeds of others, but in Psalm 36, as the psalmist continues to contemplate sin, he looks in the mirror and prays for God’s strength against personal sin. Do you?
“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” (Romans 12:3) We all have a tendency to approach God’s word and approach others arrogantly rather than humbly. Thus, Jesus began His teachings to the disciples with these words — “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)
God says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8, 9) The difference between our thoughts and God’s thoughts are infinite, but the distance between our thoughts and those of the person who so deeply offends us aren’t as far as we would like to think they are, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God;” (Romans 3:23) “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick;” (Jeremiah 17:9) and “we see in a mirror dimly.” (1 Corinthians 13:12) We all need God’s grace, and having received God’s grace, we are duly obligated to respond to others with grace, returning only goodness for evil (or what we perceive as evil). And chances are, in a given situation, we weren’t as ‘right’ as we thought we are, and they aren’t as ‘wrong.’
“Let not the foot of arrogance come upon me….” (Psalm 36:11) Pride (and self-righteousness) is an ever-present and highly alluring temptation. Hence, Jesus’ words — “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24) Here are four verses worth meditating on today –
- Galatians 2:20 — I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
- Romans 12:1 — Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.
- Galatians 5:16 — But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.
- 1 Corinthians 10:24 — Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 21 Mar 21: Pray for increased humility and that you would be a faithful ambassador of Christ and messenger of reconciliation.