The Second Death (3)

“But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practise magic arts, the idolaters and all liars – they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulphur. This is the second death.”
Revelation‬ ‭21:8‬ ‭NIVUK

“But as for the cowards and unbelieving and abominable [who are devoid of character and personal integrity and practice or tolerate immorality], and murderers, and sorcerers [with intoxicating drugs], and idolaters and occultists [who practice and teach false religions], and all the liars [who knowingly deceive and twist truth], their part will be in the lake that blazes with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
Revelation‬ ‭21:8‬ ‭AMP‬‬

What are “intoxicating drugs”, as described in the Amplified version of this Revelation 21:8? It used to be the fact that alcohol-based beverages were the only way intoxication could be achieved. The first mention we can find of wine in the Bible was when Noah got drunk. We read in Genesis 9:21, “One day he drank some wine he had made, and he became drunk and lay naked inside his tent.” But I would think that fermented drinks must have been around before then. Throughout the Bible there seems to be an acceptance of alcohol but accompanied by warnings to avoid excess. Proverbs 20:1, “Wine produces mockers; alcohol leads to brawls. Those led astray by drink cannot be wise.” Paul wrote to the Ephesians, as recorded in 5:18, “Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit”. But in it all, and especially in societies where clean water was scarce, a beverage with an alcohol content was considered to be acceptable. 

Sadly, in modern times, a whole wealth of products that cause intoxication have become available. Just the other day I discovered an empty canister of nitrous oxide, a gas used for anaesthesia, amongst other things, on a park bench near where I live. An example of a medical substance being abused for recreational intoxication. And then there is the illicit manufacturer and trade in natural and synthesised products, all of which are collectively called “drugs” and which cause varying effects including intoxication and addiction. In my home country of Scotland, fondness for alcohol is endemic in some sectors of society, to the extent that social and health problems abound, with a shortened life expectancy being common. And Scotland has gained the dubious distinction of being referred to as the drug capital of Europe.

In the Amplified version of Revelation 21:8, sorcerers assisted by “intoxicating drugs” are singled out for God’s judgement. It is a fact that substances that affect our minds will lead to all sorts of unacceptable results, and the openness to things of the occult is just one of them. The use of drugs of any kind will lead to a breakdown in inhibitions and will open a door for the devil to enter with his nefarious arts and acts. The ingestion of drugs will lead to mental aberrations and illness, hallucinations being one of them. People start taking drugs to try and relieve their symptoms of stress, misery, and to try and forget their problems. But the root causes of their distress are still there when the effects wear off. And a cycle of taking drugs develops, leading to addiction and worse. Thankfully, God is bigger than any drug and people have been miraculously healed from a lifetime of drug addiction. If they want to be.

In our verse today, God warned John about ”all the liars [who knowingly deceive and twist truth]”. Ouch! Who has never told a lie? Why is it that human beings try and get out of a difficult spot by lying about it? We know what is right and yet we do what is wrong. There are plenty of Biblical warnings about the dangers of telling lies. Proverbs 12:22 is just one example, “The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in those who tell the truth.” Colossians 3:9, “Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds.” 

But there is another insidious development of lying that seems to have emerged in recent times. And that is disinformation. Social media has presented an opportunity for people to express their opinions on anything they choose, and much of it can be twisted to present a conclusion which is a lie. It goes something like this. A few words can be taken out of context from a scientific report on, for example, a vaccine, and developed into a theory that is different to what the author of the original report intended. And then this theory is presented on the internet as fact, and this soon attracts a huge following of readers who believe it. So we end up with the anti-vaccine movement, peddling conspiracy theories about dark government actions against society. All because of misinformation. All based on lies. 

Another problem comes from our news bulletins and newspapers. To try and get a balanced view of, for example, world events, involves a knowledge of who wrote the article, and what their political persuasion is. We pilgrims need to be discerning when it comes to reading the news, sifting facts from opinions. More potential misinformation. More potential lies. 

God was quite clear about the need to always tell the truth. We won’t get it right all the time, but, thankfully, we have a loving Heavenly Father who cares for us and to whom we can take our sins and ask for forgiveness. Revelation 21:8 is a verse that does not fit well in modern society. The steady drip drip of the devil’s influences warp and twist society drawing it away from God and His ways. There is only one way to stand firm in God’s truth, and that is to read, follow and implement His Word in our lives. There is no other way. When Jesus’ teaching become too counter-cultural for the people of His day, many left Him. But with Peter, we echo John 6:68-69, “Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. We believe, and we know you are the Holy One of God.

Dear Lord. You indeed are the only One who has the Words of eternal life. We praise and worship You today. Amen.

Authority to Judge

Then I saw thrones, and the people sitting on them had been given the authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony about Jesus and for proclaiming the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his statue, nor accepted his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They all came to life again, and they reigned with Christ for a thousand years. This is the first resurrection. (The rest of the dead did not come back to life until the thousand years had ended.) Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. For them the second death holds no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him a thousand years.
Revelation‬ ‭20:4-6‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Have you ever been wronged by someone? Perhaps you have been badly or racially mistreated? Accused of something you hadn’t done? Our abilities to put the record straight can be limited in our societies, but sadly, many people, and particularly Christians, are persecuted for their beliefs, and without redress. And many have died because they have refused to renounce their faith in God. We read in the verse today, that when Christ’s rule for a thousand years commences, He will be joined by those resurrected martyrs who have suffered and died “for their testimony about Jesus and for proclaiming the word of God”. Their reward is that they will be resurrected and reign “with Christ for a thousand years“. And we’re told that they will be joined by all those who have refused to worship the beast and be branded with his mark. 

But who will these resurrected people be judging? During the millennium period, there will be a different type of society. No democracy any more. This will be a theocracy, ruled by Jesus, the Son of God, and righteousness, not sin, will prevail. And Jesus will delegate to His faithful servants the authority to judge all those who, through their sin, upset the theocratic societal order. We discovered in the last blog that, although the devil was consigned to the bottomless pit, sin and wickedness would still prevail. No joy then for the sinners. They will be judged by the very people that they wronged.

But what about those Christians who were not beheaded for their faith? The Apostle Paul wrote about this eventuality in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, “We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever“. This was the event many have referred to as the rapture. 

John was informed that this was the first resurrection, as described by Paul in his letter to the Thessalonians. Notice that for us pilgrims, there is no fear of the first resurrection. Some ask about what sort of body we will have after the first resurrection. Paul write in 2 Corinthians 5:1, “For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands.” We also get a few clues from the sort of body that Jesus had after His resurrection. His new body was recognisable, but it also had some amazing qualities. 

John is told in his vision that those resurrected at the first resurrection will be blessed and holy. No more corruption. No more sin. No more sickness. No more death. But there is a second resurrection coming at the end of the millennium, when the rest of the dead, the unbelievers, will rise. This will not be a good place to be for those who have rejected the grace of God, but more of this later. So we pilgrims look forward to the day when we will enter into eternal life. The detail of this isn’t totally clear from Scripture, but through faith and our belief in God, we are assured of our future. 

Dear Father God. As we peer into the future, and dimly see Your grace and provision coming into fruition, we once again declare our love for You, grateful for Your grace. We worship You today. Amen. 

The Seventh Plague

“Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air. And a mighty shout came from the throne in the Temple, saying, “It is finished!” Then the thunder crashed and rolled, and lightning flashed. And a great earthquake struck—the worst since people were placed on the earth. The great city of Babylon split into three sections, and the cities of many nations fell into heaps of rubble. So God remembered all of Babylon’s sins, and he made her drink the cup that was filled with the wine of his fierce wrath. And every island disappeared, and all the mountains were levelled. There was a terrible hailstorm, and hailstones weighing as much as seventy-five pounds fell from the sky onto the people below. They cursed God because of the terrible plague of the hailstorm.”
Revelation‬ ‭16:17-21‬ ‭NLT‬‬

No details of the Armageddon war are included in Revelation 16. The narrative in John’s vision jumps to the seventh plague. But there are three words that have been heard before in another place, during another momentous event. “It is finished!” In our verses today, these words emanate from the very throne of God. In the form of a loud and triumphant shout. God has finally brought to an end worldly judgements.

We will remember the last time these words were uttered. Jesus died on the cross at Calvary after declaring probably what are the most profound words ever spoken. In John 19:30 we read, “When Jesus had tasted it, he said, “It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit”. In the Matthew account of the moment of Jesus’ death we read, “At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart”. (Matthew 27:51). ‭But in the Revelation account the impact of “It is finished!” effectively preceded a reforming of the earth, in that there was a great earthquake of a severity never before seen. All the islands disappeared. Mountains were mountains no more. And hailstones weighing what the King James Version of the Bible calls a talent, a unit of weight equivalent to thirty two kilograms or thereabouts, fell from the sky. That is an extremely heavy lump of ice and it would do serious amounts of damage to property, crops, animals and, of course, people. No wonder God received some complaints in the form of curses levelled against Him! If only they had repented.

Babylon crops up again in these verses. It refers to the personification of all the wickedness and sins of the world’s population, past, present and future. John’s vision referred to Babylon as a place that included not just the “great city” but also “the cities of many nations“. And they were reduced to heaps of rubble. But there is more to come about Babylon in John’s vision, recorded in Revelation 17 and 18, which we have yet to consider.

To us pilgrims we can only breathe a collective sigh of relief after reading these verses. The difficulties facing human beings in those days doesn’t bear thinking about. What a narrow escape we have had from disaster. Imagine what would have happened if we had failed to accept God’s invitation of grace when we did? Of course, we might have passed on before all these plagues had finally been dispensed on earth and its population, but we would not have escaped the judgement to come. 

When I have shared these scenes from Revelation with people I meet, a common response is, “How do you know that there is a life after we die, after all, no-one has ever returned to tell us what will happen, if anything”? Many people believe that once death overtakes us, there will be just blackness. Nothing else. Some people suggest that the death experience is like falling asleep but never waking up. Eternal sleep. But we pilgrims, through our faith, believe differently. Hebrews 11:1 reads, “Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see“. We hope for a future, eternal life, in God’s presence. And our faith assures us that that will be the case. Through our belief and faith in the rightness of God’s Word, we believe what He has promised. Hebrews 11:13 reads, “All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth“. As we plod along the paths of life, pilgrims together, we see in the distance our promised land. And one day we will get there and receive the fruit of that promise.

Dear Lord. Thank You for Your assurance that You are making a place in Heaven where we can join You. You said it. We believe it. We worship You today. Amen.

The Temple of the Holy Spirit

“Then I looked and saw that the Temple in heaven, God’s Tabernacle, was thrown wide open. The seven angels who were holding the seven plagues came out of the Temple. They were clothed in spotless white linen with gold sashes across their chests.”
Revelation‬ ‭15:5-6 NLT

God’s house in Heaven is open. Wide open. But why should there be a Temple in Heaven? One reason could be that it has been ordained by God. He gave Moses detailed instructions about what would be a suitable place for Him to live in when on earth. It’s a fascinating set of ancient blueprints delivered, not as a set of architectural drawings, complete with material specifications and fabric requirements, but as a written set of instructions, embellished with guidance from the Holy Spirit when needed. In Exodus 25:8-9, God said to Moses, “Have the people of Israel build me a holy sanctuary so I can live among them. You must build this Tabernacle and its furnishings exactly according to the pattern I will show you”. Perhaps God gave Moses a picture of how the Tabernacle would look and he wrote down the “pattern” for subsequent generations to follow, if necessary. But notice it wasn’t either God or Moses who built the original Tabernacle – it was the people. Ordinary, everyday, people who used to be slaves in Egypt. The instructions that God gave Moses for building the Tabernacle were incredibly detailed, even down to the quantities of materials. Don’t forget that Moses was not a qualified architect, designer or quantity surveyor – he had been a sheep farmer for most of his life. But God is our Heavenly Architect who knows everything. So Moses, and the obedient people, built a home for God.

Are we pilgrims Tabernacle builders or do we lack interest in doing such a thing? Do we need a Tabernacle today, to act as a home for God, or do we find such a concept unnecessary? Of course, in these times of the New Covenant, there is no need for a physical building to focus our worship, though this has not always been the case. Just look at the amazing cathedrals and churches that have been built over the centuries, to act as places of worship. That fact that so many of them are still standing today is a testimony to the skills of the architects and construction workers of bygone years. 

So we can, rather smugly perhaps, look back at the paraphernalia of the Old Testament accounts of the Tabernacle and the Temple and think such things are of no relevance for modern day pilgrims. That is, until we read in 1 Corinthians 6:19, “Don’t you realise that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself,”. The Temple of the Old Testament becomes our bodies in the New Covenant. And all of a sudden, as the penny drops, as the implications of what this means hits us, we see the importance of the Temple, God’s Tabernacle. There was nothing impure and unholy in the Old Testament Tabernacle and Temple. And the Temple within us has the same requirement. We are called to be pure and holy, a fit place in which God can dwell. In 1 Peter 1:14-16 we read, “So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy””. Of course, no-one can ever achieve this holy state, totally conforming to God’s definition of holiness, through their own efforts. It is only through faith in the cleansing power of Jesus’ blood that we can stand righteous and holy before our Heavenly Father, becoming a temple fit for Him to live in.

Dear Lord, how can we ever thank You enough? You gave up Heaven to join mankind on earth so that You could show us the way home. Thank You. Amen.

The Song of Moses and the Lamb

“I saw before me what seemed to be a glass sea mixed with fire. And on it stood all the people who had been victorious over the beast and his statue and the number representing his name. They were all holding harps that God had given them. And they were singing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb: “Great and marvellous are your works, O Lord God, the Almighty. Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations. Who will not fear you, Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous deeds have been revealed.””
Revelation‬ ‭15:2-4 NLT

In his vision, John saw a “marvellous event of great significance” and here we have the End Time martyrs standing before God singing a song, the first line of which goes, “Great and marvellous are your works, O Lord God”. This was the “song of Moses” and the “song of the Lamb”. Moses was very much a part of the Old Covenant, the foundation of the pre-Christ Jewish nation. Jesus, the Lamb of God, brought in the New Covenant. The essence of the Old Covenant we can find in Deuteronomy 30:15-16, “Now listen! Today I am giving you a choice between life and death, between prosperity and disaster. For I command you this day to love the Lord your God and to keep his commands, decrees, and regulations by walking in his ways. If you do this, you will live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you and the land you are about to enter and occupy.” The Epistle to the Hebrews links the two in 8:9-10, “This covenant will not be like the one I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and led them out of the land of Egypt. They did not remain faithful to my covenant, so I turned my back on them, says the Lord. But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” But in naming this song after both Moses and Jesus, in some way the two covenants are being brought together.

The song the martyrs sang didn’t include any references to the terrible times and earthly deaths they had experienced at the hands of the beasts. It was totally God-focused, the words “you” and “your” mentioned seven times. It was a song dedicated to God, in whom they had the victory. They, of course, had been victorious over the beasts because they had arrived in Heaven and were in God’s presence. The one thing the beasts were trying to stop had happened regardless. We saw it with Jesus at Calvary. The devil and his forces thought they had conquered the very Son of God, but soon found out that when Jesus rose again, the devil’s defeat was announced and resulted in his public humiliation. 

We pilgrims are assured that, regardless of what plans the devil may try and concoct against us, we are on the winning side. Jesus, through His sacrifice at Calvary, defeated death itself. We transition, at the end of our lives, into experiencing Eternal Life in God’s presence. The End Time martyrs found that their transition happened earlier than it would have done otherwise, but the result was the same. And if we know of anyone who isn’t on the winning side, we double our efforts to make sure they know all about our wonderful Heavenly Father, and His Son Jesus.

Dear Heavenly Father. We thank You that through You we are winners. we are so grateful. Amen.

Covenants

He always stands by his covenant—
    the commitment he made to a thousand generations.
Psalm 105:8 NLT

This verse describes God’s faithfulness in the covenant He made to His people, the Jews. It’s a covenant He is going to keep. What was it? A covenant is a binding agreement made between two parties. And in Genesis 17 we read, “.. This is the everlasting covenant: I will always be your God and the God of your descendants after you“. He will not try and wriggle His way out of it, when the going gets tough, as humans might do. But the covenantal agreement between God and His people was in two parts. God promised for His part to be always with them. And for their part they had to be obedient to Him and His laws, with a regime of sacrifices to atone for their sins. And as far as God was concerned His promise was eternal. Sadly, we see from the Old Testament the constant struggle the Jewish nation had in keeping their part of the agreement. 

Through Jesus, God brought about a New Covenant. This New Covenant was mentioned by Jeremiah – he could see, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, a time coming when God would initiate a New Covenant. We read in Jeremiah 31:33, “But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel after those days,” says the Lord. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” In Hebrews 7:22, we read, “…Jesus is the one who guarantees this better covenant with God“. In the New Covenant, God offered the free gift of forgiveness for our sins through Jesus’ sacrificial death at Calvary, and our responsibility is to have faith in what He did for us, in the process enjoying an eternal relationship with God.

But will God’s commitment come to an end? In today’s verse the Psalmist points out that God has limited His covenant to a thousand generations. It doesn’t seem so much until we realise that the genealogies in the Bible add up to around one hundred generations from Adam until today. So a thousand generations is as good as eternity.
But the important point of the Covenant is that God is a real, loving, Heavenly Father, His Son Jesus died to redeem us from the consequences of our sins, and we have an invitation to spend eternity with Him. Seems a good deal to me.

Lifespan

“Seventy years are given to us! 
     Some even live to eighty. 
But even the best years are filled with pain and trouble; 
     soon they disappear, and we fly away.”
Psalms‬ ‭90:10‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Psalm 90 is the first Psalm of Book Four within the Book of Psalms, and this time it is Moses’s pen that records another lyrical expression of God. At apparent odds with today’s verse, Moses didn’t start God’s work until he was 80 years old. But what a life of service! Moses lived until he was 120, but how long will we live? “Three score years and ten” is often quoted in relation to our expectation of lifespan, but we don’t really know. None of us know the day when we will leave life on this earth and cross the Great Divide. The young seem to believe that they will live forever. Certainly many seem to act like it. But those who are older become more measured in their approach to life, particularly when they reach the “twilight zone”. Some terminally ill people want to legislate control over when they leave this life, but the sanctity of life prevails, at least for now. But whatever we feel about those last moments of our lives, worrying won’t be helpful. Jesus said, as recorded in Matthew 6:27,  “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” I have read somewhere that over 90% of deaths occur when the person is asleep, which many will find reassuring. Certainly that was the case for both my parents.

So what is the impact on our daily lives of our lack of knowledge of when we will die? How should we respond? Most people don’t want to talk about it. They become fearful and depressed. Others park the question, preferring to live each day as it comes. Still others become frustrated because they know they have to age and leave this life one day and they regret that death is one aspect of their life that they have no control over. Some get paranoid when they observe the signs of ageing staring back at them from the mirror, reaching for magic potions to delay the inevitable. Cosmetic companies advertise the extraordinary powers of their products in halting the ageing process. And one topic of scientific research is sure to get the attention of many readers – how our natural lives can be extended. There are even a few wealthy people who go to extraordinary lengths to preserve themselves after death in the hope that one day in the future there will be technology that can resurrect them from a deeply frozen state.

But there is one sure-fire way of ensuring we can live forever. For eternity. Most people, particularly those who have rejected God, think that life ends when they die. But those who believe in, and follow, God, are convinced that there is a life beyond the grave of far more importance than the life we experience now. In faith, such people, Christians, believe that Jesus is preparing a place for them, so that they can live with Him forever. We can read what He said in John 14. 

I have heard the often-quoted verse, John 3:16, used at funerals to assure the relatives and the friends of their departed loved one that he or she is now in Heaven, along with their mum and dad, and Auntie Mary thrown in for good measure. That may or not be true, but such soliloquies often ignore the following verse, verse 17, where Jesus said, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” There is only one way to join God in Heaven, and that is through Jesus. In John 11, Jesus said to Martha, the sister of Lazarus,  ”… I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die ….” It’s all about the word “Believe”. It implies not just an acknowledgement that Jesus is real. That God exists. Even the devil believes that! It implies aligning our lives during the time we have in this life to how it will be in the next. Dealing with our sins. Following God’s teachings. Building up a relationship with Him. Otherwise we will be unable to enter into God’s presence – how could we if we don’t know Him?

So today, let us stop worrying about how much time we have left for us in this life. Instead, let us ensure our future in the life to come.

God’s Provision

“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, 
is God in his holy dwelling. 
God sets the lonely in families, 
He leads out the prisoners with singing; 
but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.
Psalms‬ ‭68:5-6‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬

In this Psalm, the author, David, puts his finger on two people groups who were social outcasts in his day. Orphans and widows. In a society without a social security safety net, these people were vulnerable to abuse and injustice. In His time spent with God up the mountain, Moses particularly highlighted and wrote about those people in his society who were in need (Deuteronomy 10:18), and David repeats the principle in these verses. The verses we are reading today declare that God would provide for the orphans and widows. In those days, begging was a common way of receiving provision, as well as the expectation that friends, neighbours and the wealthy, would show favour to those in need. But as we read from Jesus’ words in the Gospels, caring for the disadvantaged was an aspiration rather than a realisation.

Today there are still orphans and widows. But the responsibility for looking after them has shifted from members of society to the state, with the provision of benefits for those in need, or foster homes for the orphaned. Progress? Perhaps. But we still have a responsibility, as Christians, to look out for those people in our society who are disadvantaged. Being a friend to the lonely. Keeping an eye on that elderly widow lady next door, doing her shopping or cutting her grass. And through us, God will look after those in social need. But is this an aspiration rather than a realisation? It’s up to us to turn it into a reality.

But what about the prisoners? From what were they being set free? We are all prisoners of something, to a greater or lesser extent. Many things can imprison us. Lack of finance. Mental and physical illness. Disabilities. Loneliness. Abusive neighbours. Lack of education. Substance abuse. The list is endless. But David says that through God we can be set free from the incarceration we experience. We can rise above our cells of misery and want. We can look up through the bars and see our loving Heavenly Father, and be filled with a new song of joy and freedom. One of my favourite Scriptures is Isaiah 40, and the last verse reads, “but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Through God we can soar into Heavenly places, elevated from our bi-dimensional existence. 

Finally, there is a sad side to these verses. The last part of verse 6 mourns the fact that those who have rebelled against God, by rejecting or ignoring Him, will have to live in a dry and hot place. Is this a prophetic muse about the time to come, when those who have rejected God will spend eternity in the place of their default choice?

But back to the message in these verses. As God’s servants on this planet we have a responsibility to look after those less fortunate than ourselves. And when we do so we too will have song in our hearts. 

Come and See

“Come and see what God has done, 
His awesome deeds for mankind! 
He turned the sea into dry land, 
they passed through the waters on foot – 
come, let us rejoice in Him. 
Come and hear, all you who fear God; 
let me tell you what He has done for me.
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭66:5-6, 16‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬

“Come and see”. “Come and hear”. God invites us to use our eyes and ears to check out all the wonderful things He has done for us. Traditional Jewish families to this day remember the Biblical events such as crossing the Red Sea, an event mentioned in the verses today. But what about God’s ability to wow us with His abilities in 21st Century Scotland? Or in the societies within which we live? Personally, God never ceases to amaze me as I wander around the woodland paths close to where I live. His creation shouts out His wonderful acts to me and those around me – if we look for it. The plant life in its abundance. The trees growing straight and strong. The birds, filling the air with their music. The deer crossing my path just a few yards ahead. The rodents grubbing around near the forest streams. Even occasionally a fox or two, slinking away into the undergrowth. Further afield, I continue to be amazed by beautiful sunsets and sunrises. The news reports of wonderful creatures not found before. The physicists making discoveries about nuclear particles. The medical scientists researching and finding ways to treat disease. The list is endless. Our natural world is a wonderful testimony to God’s “awesome deeds for mankind”. Sadly, the evolutionists will say this all happened by chance, missing out on the opportunity to be able to rejoice in our wonderful God, missing out on the opportunity to thank our Creator for His awesome deeds. 

But it doesn’t stop there. God also does wonderful things in the realms of the supernatural. Through the power of His Spirit as He permeates the world and people within it. I look back in my life and remember occasions where things could have gone horribly wrong, but they didn’t because God did something awesome. Coincidence or chance the sceptic might say. But to me there have been too many occasions where God has moved in response to prayers, bringing outcomes that fall into the category of “His awesome deeds”. I would go as far as to call some of them “miracles”. And in particular the situation of my own daughter’s healing from encephalitis, a virus attacking her brain with such severity that the medics were convinced that her lengthy time in hospital would not end well. But after her total recovery, one of the doctors wrote on her notes, “This is a miracle”. And as a family we thank God continually for His miraculous intervention, taking every opportunity to tell what He has done for us.

In verse 16 of today’s Psalm, the Psalmist invites those people around him to listen to what God has done for him. Those of us who are Christians have a story to tell. A story of the journey in which God found us and we responded to His grace and love. A story that may not contain the earth shattering events such as the crossing of the Red Sea, but it will contain those personal details of the wonder of what our loving Heavenly Father has done in our lives. I could tell you of drug addicts whose lives have been transformed by the power of God working in their lives. I could tell you of miracles of healings that have brought people back from the very gates of Heaven. But perhaps the biggest miracle is the one in which we have been transformed from a dismal life in the kingdom of darkness into citizenship of the Kingdom of Light. Financially it cost me nothing, but it cost Jesus everything, even His very life on that cross at Calvary. And by so doing we are assured a future with the very Person who does “awesome deeds for mankind”. So I invite you today – “Come and see” and “Come and hear”. “Let me tell” – that’s what I will be doing and saying, grabbing every opportunity to invite those around me to join me in this wonderful life, life with our loving and gracious Heavenly Creator God.

The Perfect Plan

Hide me from the conspiracy of the wicked, 
from the plots of evildoers. 
They plot injustice and say, 
‘We have devised a perfect plan!’ 
Surely the human mind and heart are cunning. 
The righteous will rejoice in the Lord and take refuge in him; 
all the upright in heart will glory in him!
Psalms‬ ‭64:2, 6, 10‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬

David is having another rant about the wicked people in his day and draws a comparison with those who are righteous. This theme seems to have been almost constantly in his mind, and appears in many of his Psalms. But his description of the “wicked” applies just as well today as it did in his day. Sin pervades people’s minds and works out in increasingly despicable actions, generation by generation.

My thoughts immediately went back to the events of the Second World War, and, in particular, the Holocaust. That desperately sad time when so many of God’s people, the Jews, were annihilated by Hitler’s “Perfect Plan”. But there have been many times in history and right up to today, where evil men and women have come up with their own “Perfect Plan”, usually involving crimes against their fellow members of societies. I say it again, “Sin pervades people’s minds and works out in increasingly despicable actions.” 

In this Psalm, and others, David calls on God to deal with such people. And if we are honest we do as well today, in our thoughts, in our prayers, and in our conversations. We look around us at world events, at things going on in our own countries, in our own societies and communities. When we see the evil acts that are taking place, we are faced with the reality that the pervasiveness of sin works out in many ways, from genocide to low level anti-social behaviour. Why doesn’t God deal with sin, and sinful and wicked people, once and for all and give us all peace? A good question for those taking the moral high ground, until they realise, as it says in Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. We must therefore leave room for the grace of God.

Jesus taught the people of His day in parables, and one of them is entitled, “The Wheat and the Tares”, which we can read in Matthew 13. It refers to the fact that although righteous and wicked people live together, one day they will be separated. When Jesus’ disciples asked Him to explain the parable, He said, “The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” So we have the picture of the wicked and righteous being dealt with “at the end of the age“, when there will be a time of judgement. But thankfully, there is a place for the righteous in the Kingdom of God.

So what can we all learn from these few verses? Firstly, we must keep away from making plans that do not conform to God’s principles. Proverbs 19:21 states, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” If we read and apply what we find in God’s planning manual we won’t go far wrong. Secondly, we must ensure that we are numbered with the righteous, not the wicked. And the only way we can accomplish that is through Jesus. Only He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. That is the real, and ultimate, “Perfect Plan”.