Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Nowhere Else To Turn

In you, O Lord, do I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
in your righteousness deliver me! Psalm 31:1

Have you ever prayed for God to deliver you in his righteousness? I don’t think I have. My prayers are always more, ‘Deliver me, in your mercy’ (especially when I’m driving to the dentist).

When the poet says, in you I take refuge—in your righteousness deliver me, it sounds like a contract. The poet has placed his trust in the Lord, and he wants the Lord to honor the contract—to make good on his righteousness—by delivering him. But, here’s another way to think about it.

In his prayer, the poet confesses two things: there is no one besides the Lord who will deliver him, and there is no one else who is righteous. Whatever the Lord does, he does in his righteousness.

So, the poet appeals to the Lord’s righteousness not because the Lord owes him something in response to his trust, but because the poet knows that no one else deserves his trust. We see this idea later in the same psalm.

Into your hand I commit my spirit … (v. 5)

The poet trusts so exclusively in the Lord, that Jesus would use the same declaration on the cross (Luke 23:46). And now, because of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, God not only delivers us in his righteousness; he delivers us to become his righteousness (2 Cor 5:21)!

So we have every reason to trust the Lord with the same exclusivity that the poet cried for deliverance. He concludes Psalm 31 by encouraging others also to trust the Lord.

Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
all you who wait for the Lord! (v. 24)

Here’s a question for you and me:

Does our trust in the Lord illustrate for others that we have no plan B, that we have nowhere else to turn?


Friday, August 13, 2021

Limbs and Leaves and Black, Black Smoke

limbs and leaves and black, black smoke
behind the house, back near the shed
near, warm, but not too close

stinging eyes may seek some ghost
though with no right to tread
limbs and leaves and black, black smoke

far away one humble host
brewing coffee near the bread
near, warm, but not too close

where winds unnatural timely blow
no thought in fall my eyes to dread
limbs and leaves and black, black smoke

as stinging eyes the tongue too knows
to sip or stare will turn them red
near, warm, but not too close

one taste to find, what force to show
what bellows in the craftsman’s stead
limbs and leaves and black, black smoke
near, warm, but not too close

Thursday, July 8, 2021

The Messianic Mystery: Our God Is A Faithful God

Sometimes we latch onto easy answers. Easiness doesn't make an answer incorrect. The latching on, nonetheless, makes an answer tired. It happens naturally in Sunday school. We keep raising the same questions and keep affirming the same answers. The curriculum repeats. Here's an example.

Why did Jesus command the disciples not to tell anyone he was the Messiah? Because his mission would look so drastically different from their messianic expectations. That is the correct answer. Or, I'm convinced that idea is one part of the correct answer—especially in Luke 9, where the command underscores the contrast between two different kinds of king, Herod and Jesus. We encountered that question yet again in Sunday school recently, and someone offered to nuance the answer a little.

Jesus wasn't less than the people's expectations. They wanted a ruler for sovereign Israel. Jesus was and is the Sovereign Ruler of Creation.

Now, anyone complaining of tired answers should welcome any reasonable nuance, but I don't think this angle best reflects the messianic mystery in the gospels. Here, I'll appeal to Walter Brueggemann.

When the christian tradition got translated into Greek categories in the third and fourth centuries, we lost that Jewish accent on fidelityand we settled for Hellenistic categories of omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresencethat requires us to give up the notion that God is basically defined by powerthat God is basically defined by fidelity not power.

In the above quote, Walter kinda loses track of his thats. In context, he's clearly saying:

The Old Testament emphasizes God's fidelity more so than his power.

Therein lies the misunderstanding of many Jews in Jesus' day. They were looking for a messiah who would demonstrate God's power rather than his fidelity. The difference between their expectations and Jesus' inauguration of his kingdom is not a difference of degree, but a difference in kind. (Or, as Luke might tell us, a difference in king!)

The post-Covid world will bring new questions, needing new answers. Some will be easier than others. Regardless, the big question stays the same—and so does its answer. Lord, give us grace never to find it easy or tired. How can we be reconciled to our Creator? Because God is faithful.

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor 5:21)

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Checking In

Hi! However you got here, thanks for stopping by.

I'll eventually start sharing deeply contemplative, world-changing content here again, but for now I'm just posting short reflections from Proverbs on my facebook page.

So please go check that out right here, or click through the post below.


Here we have two foundational character traits. The first is the mark of compassionate decency. The other displays the...

Posted by Josh Dowdy on Wednesday, April 28, 2021