Day 9

Trust God to Put Things Right

Wisdom Psalm 7:1-9
New Testament Matthew 7:24-8:22
Old Testament Genesis 19:1-20:18

Introduction

Pippa and I enjoy doing crosswords together. When we are stuck on one clue we don’t give up, we move on to the next clue. Every time we find an answer it helps us in resolving some of the other clues. In the end, we are sometimes able to solve most of the puzzle.

In a way, reading some of the difficult parts of the Bible is like trying to solve a crossword puzzle. Rather than getting bogged down in a tricky section, you can use the passages you do understand to help you resolve some of the more difficult ones.

Often I find it hard not only to understand some of the difficult passages in the Bible, but also to understand why certain things are happening in our world. There seems to be so much injustice. There are no easy answers.

I love the second great rhetorical question from yesterday’s passage, ‘Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?’ (Genesis 18:25). One thing that you can be sure about is that on the last day, when all is revealed, you will see God’s perfect judgment – and everyone will say, ‘That is absolutely right.’ Each of today’s passages tells us something about the fact that, in the end, God will put things right.

Wisdom

Psalm 7:1-9

Psalm 7

A shiggaion of David, which he sang to the Lord concerning Cush, a Benjamite.

|1 Lord my God, I take refuge in you;
||save and deliver me from all who pursue me,
|2 or they will tear me apart like a lion
||and rip me to pieces with no one to rescue me.

|3 Lord my God, if I have done this
||and there is guilt on my hands —
|4 if I have repaid my ally with evil
||or without cause have robbed my foe—
|5 then let my enemy pursue and overtake me;
||let him trample my life to the ground
||and make me sleep in the dust.

|6 Arise, Lord, in your anger;
||rise up against the rage of my enemies.
||Awake, my God; decree justice.
|7 Let the assembled peoples gather around you,
||while you sit enthroned over them on high.
||8 Let the Lord judge the peoples.
|Vindicate me, Lord, according to my righteousness,
||according to my integrity, O Most High.
|9 Bring to an end the violence of the wicked
||and make the righteous secure—
|you, the righteous God
||who probes minds and hearts.

Commentary

Trust that there will be a just judgment

Some people might think that belief in a God who judges would lead to more violence in the world today. In fact, it is the opposite. When people stop believing in God’s just judgment, they may be tempted to take it into their own hands and seek revenge against their enemies.

David trusted that there will be a judgment – that God will be the judge and he will judge justly. ‘My accusers have packed the courtroom; it’s judgment time. Take your place on the bench, reach for your gavel, throw out the false charges against me. I’m ready, confident in your verdict’ (vv.7–8, MSG). In other words, David trusted that God would deal with his enemies.

If you believe in a God who is going to execute judgment with perfect justice, then you can leave it in his hands and do what Jesus told you to do: love your enemies (see Matthew 5:43–48; Luke 6:27–36).

In fact, as Miroslav Volf put it, ‘The practice of non-violence requires a belief in divine vengeance.’ So many of the world’s problems today would be solved if people believed in the fact that there is a God who judges justly and that we can trust him to put things right in the end.

Prayer

Lord, I take refuge in you (Psalm 7:1). Thank you that as I can be confident in your perfect judgment, I need never seek revenge but rather love my enemies and pray for those who persecute me (Matthew 5:44).

New Testament

Matthew 7:24-8:22

The Wise and Foolish Builders

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

Jesus Heals a Man With Leprosy

8When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. 2 A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

3 Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. 4 Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”

The Faith of the Centurion

5 When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. 6 “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”

7 Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”

8 The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 11 I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment.

Jesus Heals Many

14 When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. 15 He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him.

16 When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:

|“He took up our infirmities
||and bore our diseases.”

The Cost of Following Jesus

18 When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. 19 Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”

20 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

21 Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

22 But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

Commentary

Trust in Jesus, to whom God has entrusted all judgment

Jesus knew all about building houses. He was a craftsman by trade and had worked as a carpenter. The illustration he uses is down-to-earth and practical: two men who each decide to build a house (7:24–26). No doubt they intended to live in and enjoy them, perhaps with their families. Both were building something of long-lasting significance. Our lives are like these houses, yet their significance is for all eternity.

The most important feature of any house is its foundations. These houses differed little in appearance. But only one had ‘its foundation on the rock’ (v.25). Similarly, two lives can look alike, but the difference in the foundations is evident when, inevitably, the storms of life come.

You will face challenges in life. They will come in many forms: misunderstandings, disappointments, unfulfilled longings, doubts, trials, temptations, setbacks and satanic attacks. Success, too, can be a test. There is also pressure, suffering, sickness, bereavement, sorrow, trauma, tragedy, persecution and failure.

Ultimately, all of us will face death and God’s judgment. The image of ‘rain... torrents... winds’ is used in Ezekiel to refer to God’s judgment (Ezekiel 13:11), but the language of judgment is not confined to the Old Testament. Here, and elsewhere, Jesus warns of the coming judgment, as do the other New Testament writers.

When ‘the rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house’ (Matthew 7:25,27), the house built on the rock ‘did not fall’ (v.25), but the one built on the sand ‘fell with a great crash’ (v.27). These are solemn words of warning. The trial may be during this life or it may come on the day of judgment. What is certain, according to Jesus, is that it will come.

However, you need not live in fear. It is not easy, but there is a way to be sure that, when the foundations of your house are tested, they stand firm. It is possible to know that your future is secure.

Jesus tells us that the key difference is that the wise man not only hears the words of Jesus, but he also ‘puts them into practice’ (v.24). The foolish man, on the other hand, although he hears Jesus’ words ‘does not put them into practice’ (v.26).

Knowledge must lead to action – our theology must affect our lives or else we are building our lives on sand.

The words of Jesus are, first of all, a call to believe in him (John 6:28–29). Our salvation is by faith in Jesus, lived out in obedience.

You can have absolute confidence in Jesus’ judgment, because he has the authority of God himself. Jesus was amazed at the centurion’s faith in him. He said, ‘Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith’ (Matthew 8:10).

The evidence for this faith came because the centurion believed that Jesus’ word alone was sufficient to heal his servant (v.8). His rationale for believing this is profound. The centurion recognised that, as in the army, authority comes from being under authority – so Jesus’ authority comes from being under the authority of his Father. The centurion saw that when Jesus spoke, God spoke.

Furthermore, this perfect Judge is not aloof from human suffering. We know Jesus experienced injustice, imprisonment, torture and crucifixion. But, in this passage, we see that he also experienced homelessness (v.20) and bore the weight of our sickness and suffering on the cross (v.17). There is little in human suffering that Jesus himself did not experience.

Prayer

Father, thank you that not only is Jesus able to sympathise with my weaknesses, but he also died for my sins bearing the judgment for me so that I need not be afraid.

Old Testament

Genesis 19:1-20:18

Sodom and Gomorrah Destroyed

19The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. When he saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. 2 “My lords,” he said, “please turn aside to your servant’s house. You can wash your feet and spend the night and then go on your way early in the morning.”

“No,” they answered, “we will spend the night in the square.”

3 But he insisted so strongly that they did go with him and entered his house. He prepared a meal for them, baking bread without yeast, and they ate. 4 Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom —both young and old—surrounded the house. 5 They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.”

6 Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him 7 and said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. 8 Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.”

9 “Get out of our way,” they replied. “This fellow came here as a foreigner, and now he wants to play the judge! We’ll treat you worse than them.” They kept bringing pressure on Lot and moved forward to break down the door.

10 But the men inside reached out and pulled Lot back into the house and shut the door. 11 Then they struck the men who were at the door of the house, young and old, with blindness so that they could not find the door.

12 The two men said to Lot, “Do you have anyone else here—sons-in-law, sons or daughters, or anyone else in the city who belongs to you? Get them out of here, 13 because we are going to destroy this place. The outcry to the Lord against its people is so great that he has sent us to destroy it.”

14 So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were pledged to marry his daughters. He said, “Hurry and get out of this place, because the Lord is about to destroy the city! ” But his sons-in-law thought he was joking.

15 With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Hurry! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished. ”

16 When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the Lord was merciful to them. 17 As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, “Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!”

18 But Lot said to them, “No, my lords, please! 19 Your servant has found favor in your eyes, and you have shown great kindness to me in sparing my life. But I can’t flee to the mountains; this disaster will overtake me, and I’ll die. 20 Look, here is a town near enough to run to, and it is small. Let me flee to it—it is very small, isn’t it? Then my life will be spared.”

21 He said to him, “Very well, I will grant this request too; I will not overthrow the town you speak of. 22 But flee there quickly, because I cannot do anything until you reach it.” (That is why the town was called Zoar. )

23 By the time Lot reached Zoar, the sun had risen over the land. 24 Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah —from the Lord out of the heavens. 25 Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, destroying all those living in the cities—and also the vegetation in the land. 26 But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.

27 Early the next morning Abraham got up and returned to the place where he had stood before the Lord. 28 He looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah, toward all the land of the plain, and he saw dense smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace.

29 So when God destroyed the cities of the plain, he remembered Abraham, and he brought Lot out of the catastrophe that overthrew the cities where Lot had lived.

Lot and His Daughters

30 Lot and his two daughters left Zoar and settled in the mountains, for he was afraid to stay in Zoar. He and his two daughters lived in a cave. 31 One day the older daughter said to the younger, “Our father is old, and there is no man around here to give us children—as is the custom all over the earth. 32 Let’s get our father to drink wine and then sleep with him and preserve our family line through our father.”

33 That night they got their father to drink wine, and the older daughter went in and slept with him. He was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up.

34 The next day the older daughter said to the younger, “Last night I slept with my father. Let’s get him to drink wine again tonight, and you go in and sleep with him so we can preserve our family line through our father.” 35 So they got their father to drink wine that night also, and the younger daughter went in and slept with him. Again he was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up.

36 So both of Lot’s daughters became pregnant by their father. 37 The older daughter had a son, and she named him Moab; he is the father of the Moabites of today. 38 The younger daughter also had a son, and she named him Ben-Ammi; he is the father of the Ammonites of today.

Abraham and Abimelek

20Now Abraham moved on from there into the region of the Negev and lived between Kadesh and Shur. For a while he stayed in Gerar, 2 and there Abraham said of his wife Sarah, “She is my sister. ” Then Abimelek king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her.

3 But God came to Abimelek in a dream one night and said to him, “You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman.”

4 Now Abimelek had not gone near her, so he said, “Lord, will you destroy an innocent nation? 5 Did he not say to me, ‘She is my sister, ’ and didn’t she also say, ‘He is my brother’? I have done this with a clear conscience and clean hands. ”

6 Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know you did this with a clear conscience, and so I have kept you from sinning against me. That is why I did not let you touch her. 7 Now return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live. But if you do not return her, you may be sure that you and all who belong to you will die.”

8 Early the next morning Abimelek summoned all his officials, and when he told them all that had happened, they were very much afraid. 9 Then Abimelek called Abraham in and said, “What have you done to us? How have I wronged you that you have brought such great guilt upon me and my kingdom? You have done things to me that should never be done. ” 10 And Abimelek asked Abraham, “What was your reason for doing this?”

11 Abraham replied, “I said to myself, ‘There is surely no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.’ 12 Besides, she really is my sister, the daughter of my father though not of my mother; and she became my wife. 13 And when God had me wander from my father’s household, I said to her, ‘This is how you can show your love to me: Everywhere we go, say of me, “He is my brother.”’”

14 Then Abimelek brought sheep and cattle and male and female slaves and gave them to Abraham, and he returned Sarah his wife to him. 15 And Abimelek said, “My land is before you; live wherever you like.”

16 To Sarah he said, “I am giving your brother a thousand shekels of silver. This is to cover the offense against you before all who are with you; you are completely vindicated.”

17 Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelek, his wife and his female slaves so they could have children again, 18 for the Lord had kept all the women in Abimelek’s household from conceiving because of Abraham’s wife Sarah.

Commentary

Trust that, in the end, the Judge of all the earth will do right

God was going to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. We do not know exactly what their sin was, but, ‘the Lord said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous”’ (18:20).

It appears from today’s passage that their sin included a horrific culture of group rape (19:3,5). We read in Ezekiel 16 that their sins also included being ‘arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy’ (Ezekiel 16:49). This could be a description of our own society in the West.

God says that if there had been ten righteous people in Sodom and Gomorrah he would have spared it for their sake: ‘For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it’ (Genesis 18:32). He gave every opportunity for the only ‘righteous’ people to leave. When Lot hesitated, the angels ‘grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the Lord was merciful to them’ (19:16).

The judgment on Lot’s wife seems very severe (v.26). Whatever the reasons for it (and I am not confident I know the answer) it certainly stands as an example. Jesus said, ‘Remember Lot’s wife!’ (Luke 17:32). We are not to look back. If we have left a life of sin, then we must not turn back to it. They were told, ‘Flee for your lives!’ (Genesis 19:17). In the same way, we are told to flee from evil desires (2 Timothy 2:22).

Even Abraham was not without sin. Indeed, he repeated the same sin over again – trying to pass off Sarah as his sister and almost causing her to commit adultery. The message of the Bible is that not only does God save sinners, he also uses sinners. He blessed Abraham and answered his prayer (Genesis 20:7). God uses us despite our sin because he is merciful and God, in Jesus, has taken the judgment upon himself.

Prayer

Lord, thank you so much for the difference the cross of Christ makes to the day of judgment. Thank you that I can be confident that, in the end, the Judge of all the earth will do right.

Pippa adds

Matthew 8:6

‘“Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralysed, suffering terribly.”’

The centurion cared not just for his family and friends, but also for someone who worked for him. Even though the centurion was an outsider and not part of the ‘religious’ community, he went looking for Jesus. Faith can be found in all sorts of unusual places.

Verse of the Day

Psalm 7:1

Lord my God, I take refuge in you.
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References

The One Year® is a registered trademark of Tyndale House Publishers. Used by permission.

Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace, (Abingdon Press, 1994) pp.303–304

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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