Tuesday, August 5, 2014

"Worship God with thanksgiving … or … "

Day #221:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - August 6th

Scripture Reading:  Psalms 93 - 95 …

God IS who He says He is.  God has revealed Himself to mankind from the beginning and what we know about God from His Word is what God desires for us to know as we live in this world.  We do not yet know everything ABOUT God, but what He has revealed we know to be true.  God IS who He says He is and He has not changed from the beginning.  God is absolute perfection, therefore He does not need to change.  His glory IS His perfection.  His character is the same today as it was when He said, "Let there be light!"  That is a comfort to those who have come to know Him as "Abba, Father,"  through faith in Jesus Christ … but should alarm the hearts of those who do not know Him and who reject His offer of forgiveness and life through Jesus.  Those who sneer at our God and who worship other gods will eventually discover that He IS who He says He is!

So who is God?  What is He like?  How can we know for sure?  The Bible gives us a picture of God as loving, kind, compassionate and gracious … slow to anger and abounding in mercy.  AND the Bible gives us a picture of God as holy, righteous and just, carrying out His wrath and vengeance on those who continue in their wickedness and who reject Him by worshiping other gods.  Which picture is accurate?  BOTH!!  God IS who He says He is.  It is not a matter that is up for discussion.  God is not one thing today and something different tomorrow.

This is the God the Psalmist writes of in our Psalms today.  He is the LORD, who reigns over His creation and who is "robed in majesty and is armed with strength" (93:1).  God did not simply create the world, wind it up and let it go.  His reign is an active reign.  He is intimately involved in His creation.  He is on His throne.  So the Psalmist writes, "Your statutes stand firm; holiness adorns Your house for endless days, O LORD" (93:5).  Jesus is the same "yesterday, today and forever" (Hebrews 13: 8), because  GOD is the same yesterday, today and forever.  You can't have one without the other because Jesus IS God in the flesh!!

Psalm 94 thus begins, "O LORD, the God who avenges, O God who avenges, shine forth.  Rise up, O Judge of the earth; pay back to the proud what they deserve!" (94:1-2).  Who of those who know God has not asked, "How long will the wicked be jubilant?" (94:3).  When I have watched some celebrate the death of people who are their "enemies," I cry out for God's justice.  They say, "The LORD does not see; the God of Jacob pays no heed" (94:7).  But they are wrong.  With question after question the Psalmist notes that the God who created us hears and sees and disciplines the nations.  He promises that "the LORD will not reject His people; He will never forsake His inheritance" (94:14).

What a comfort that is for those who know the true God and who have come to Him through faith in Jesus Christ, for we, too, are His inheritance today.  God's "judgment will again be founded on righteousness" (94:15).  As you and I live in this world justice seems hard to find.  The wicked seem to prosper and evil appears oftentimes to have victory over those who trust in the Lord our God, but God WILL have the last word!  With confidence we can testify, "Unless the LORD had given me help, I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death … When anxiety was great within me, Your consolation brought joy to my soul" (94:17, 19).

Those who do wickedness and evil will not win!  "The LORD has become my fortress, and my God the rock in whom I take refuge.  He WILL repay them for their sins and destroy them for their wickedness" (94:22-23).  As those who believe in Jesus Christ we must remember that were it not for God's grace and mercy to US, we would face His wrath and judgment, too.  Knowing who God is … that He is a God of wrath as well as mercy … a God of judgment as well as compassion … leads us to rejoice in the cross of Jesus Christ and to give thanks to God always for revealing Himself to us by His Word and Spirit.

That knowledge leads us to Psalm 95.  This Psalm is written only for believers, for no one else will respond.  "Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.  Let us come before Him with thanksgiving and extol Him with music and song" (95:1-2).  What an incredible blessing, what an amazing gift to know the one true God and to be able to approach Him without fear through the shed blood of Christ … to be able to bow down before Him in worship … the One who is our Maker, our Creator … "For He is OUR God and we are the people of His pasture, the flock under His care" (95:7).

God warns those who hear His voice not to harden their hearts as the people did in days past.  He reminds them that "for forty years I was angry with that generation" (95:10).  That was the generation that came out of Egypt and who refused to go into the promised land because they were afraid of the nations who lived there.  They all wandered in the wilderness for forty years and died without entering God's "rest" in the land God had promised to Abraham and his descendants.  God said, "They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they have not known my ways" (95:10).  Therefore God said, "They shall never enter my rest" (95:11).

But there was more to it than not entering the land of Canaan.  Listen to how the writer of Hebrews applies this Psalm:  "Therefore, since the promise of entering His rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it.  For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith.  Now we who have believed enter that rest!"  (Hebrews 4:1-3).  God was pointing to the eternal sabbath rest that awaits believers as we enter the rest of heaven, and ultimately, the new heaven and the new earth.

And the writer of Hebrews goes on to explain that "TODAY" is the day of salvation (II Corinthians 6:2).  Those who believe God's promise in the Gospel know that our enemies have been defeated by Jesus Christ and we are free to enter the promised land!!  We will live in the presence of God and will worship Him with thanksgiving forever!  The options before all of mankind are clear:  Worship Him with thanksgiving for the gift of His Son, through whom we receive forgiveness and life ... OR, face His wrath and judgment, because God IS who He says He is.

"Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name!  You are worthy to be praised and those who know You through faith in Your Son Jesus Christ will rejoice in the privilege of worship and will give You thanks all our days.  May Your Spirit fill us with joy as we offer our worship to You in Jesus' name, Amen"

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