Monday, October 10, 2016

the big if

(by Pastor Joe)
The Word for today: Psalms 124- 126
If is a big little word.
It carries so much meaning.
History has hinged on the if:
"If David had gone to war with the rest of the men..."
"If Luther decided against hanging the 95 theses...."
"If Abraham Lincoln had been a lesser man..."
"If Scott Norwood's kick had been 3 feet to the left....."
Each of us could come up with a list of our own.
Both for good and for bad, we realize that it wouldn't take much to dramatically alter the course of our own history. If might be, pound for pound, the most powerful word in the English language.
Psalm 124 starts out with an if:
"If the LORD had not been on our side.."
"Then what?"
"Bad things, my friend, bad things."
The Psalmist launches in a seemingly random series of unfortunate events. (With all due respect to Lemony Snicket). For most of us, the chances of having great protests raised against us, of being swallowed alive, of being consumed by an angry mob, of being deluged or fed to the jaws of wild animals is very remote. So we think the author is merely using colorful metaphors and it seems a rather odd list; that is, until you put these maladies in their Biblical perspective.
This Psalm actually gives us a short glance at Israel's history and the end result for those who did NOT have God on their side.
- Think of of those who grumbled and complained and otherwise rose up against Moses in the wilderness. That whole generation died in the desert. (1)
- Think of Korah and Dathan and Abiram, bitter and jealous against Moses, they incited the people until the earth literally swallowed them alive. (2)
- Think of Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron who tried to work out their own unprescribed offerings, consumed by the very fire they had lit. (3)
- Think of the Egyptian army, chasing the helpless Israelites across the Red Sea until the waves make quick work of them. (4)
- Think of Daniel's accusers. Devoured by the same teeth that they had personally arranged for Daniel's demise (5)
Ask any of them what happens when the Lord is NOT on your side and you'll get the same answer: "Bad things, man, bad things."
What separates us from them?
Well, it turns out much less than we would think.
It is certainly not us: our character or righteousness or charm or good looks.
It most certainly is God- who chooses us in the same way He chose the nation of Israel.
(See Deuteronomy 9:4-6).
If not for God, we'd all be a pretty sorry lot.
If not for His grace and mercy, his forgiveness we'd all be in much worse shape than even the before-mentioned people. The key word is if.
So let's allow this Psalm do it's work in our lives today- putting us in our place even as it lifts Him up.
(1) Exodus 16:2
(2) Numbers 16:31-33
(3) Leviticus 10:1-2
(4) Exodus 14:28
(5) Daniel 6:24

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