Archive for June, 2012


All Saints Weekly Devotional

Volume 1 Number 21

June 28, 2012

Clothed with Gladness

From Pastor Bordwine

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;

You have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness . . .

(Psalm 30:11)

As you read through the book of Psalms, you will notice several recurring themes. One of the most prevalent is “gladness.” This term (or similar words), for example, is often found in the context of meditation on the character of God. Various passages describe the reaction of a man when he dwells upon the attributes and works of God. That reaction is joy. In addition, an expression of humble thankfulness frequently accompanies the delight experienced by the worshiper.

A second context in which the element of gladness regularly appears is that of personal trials. These passages are tremendously encouraging because they illustrate how fear is turned to confidence and despair is turned to hope. This happens as the individual contemplates his place before God and the implications of that status for his present distress.

The verse above, Psalm 30:11, is a good example. The psalmist confesses that he was in mourning due to his circumstances, but God had so ministered to him that the atmosphere of despair was replaced with an atmosphere of festive celebration. The explanation for this change in perception is provided in the second half of the verse. The writer figuratively describes himself as wearing the garments of lamentation. But God, he testifies, “loosed my sackcloth . . .” The LORD provided the strength to escape the despair that had overwhelmed this man. The grip of fear and sorrow that held him was broken by God. In the place of despair, he adds, God “girded me with gladness.”

The word translated “girded” (azar) means “to bind, to clothe, to equip.” The writer tells us that God replaced his garments of sorrow with garments of gladness. Another way to express this thought is to say that the writer was armed with gladness, so to speak, and now could successfully confront his difficulties. The text makes it clear that the turnaround in perspectives was accomplished by God alone. He was able to touch the heart of the man in anguish and alter its disposition.

This is a uniquely Christian experience. Our heavenly Father, who has saved us and given us eternal life in Jesus Christ, is able and willing to provide the most essential kind of help when we find ourselves overwhelmed by troubling circumstances. We may remain in such a situation, but our perspective is dramatically transformed. Instead of trying to endure under the heavy weight of grief or fear, we are equipped to persevere with true gladness knowing that God has regard for us and will not forsake us during our time of challenge.

The next time you find yourself becoming unsettled due to an undesirable change in your circumstances, call upon God and ask Him to clothe you with gladness. Ask Him to arm you, as it were, with a joyful disposition even as you encounter the demanding elements of your ordeal.

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A Plea for Vindication

June 21, 2012

Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have walked in my integrity,

and I have trusted in the LORD without wavering.

(Psalm 26:1)

In Ps. 26, David emphasizes that he has always been faithful to God. It appears that this reaction comes in response to his enemies who were maligning his character. Although the exact details are not revealed, it is clear that David was greatly troubled by the insinuation that he should be numbered among those who have no regard for God’s Word. David speaks of his love for God several times and also voices his disdain for the wicked and their schemes.

Note how this Psalm begins: “Vindicate me, O LORD.” The term translated as “vindicate” means “to judge” or “to decide controversy.” David wants God to give the true and final verdict, as it were. He knows that he cannot succeed by pleading his case to his enemies. They would continue spreading lies about him. Therefore, he turns to God, the only one able to judge impartially and the only one capable of knowing the whole truth.

David doesn’t ask God to correct those who are slandering him. There was nothing he could do to change the damage done and nothing he could do to force his enemies to recant. But he wants to be assured that he has lived righteously in the eyes of the LORD. Clearly, God’s opinion mattered most to David. He is able to make this request of God without fear because he knows that he has lived in obedience to God’s law, regardless of what some men were saying.

Three points need to be emphasized. First, the slanderer is never concerned for the truth. We shouldn’t expect him to be interested in it. Slander, by definition, is a sin and is contrary to the Ninth Commandment (“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor”). The man who will lie reveals his genuine goal, which is destruction.

Second, the slanderer will normally “go public” with his accusations. His aim is to destroy his victim, as noted, and that takes public condemnation. The enemies of David wanted to insulate themselves from scrutiny by disappearing into a mob. David could not possibly confront every person who heard the slander, believed it, and repeated it. Once an accusation becomes the mantra of a mob, there is little hope of genuine and thorough exoneration.

And third, there is only one appeal that makes sense and only one that will bring relief. As David illustrates, we must appeal to God because He alone knows the truth and He alone knows the hearts of the attackers. If our aim is justice, this is the only course of action.

Sometimes, as much as we would like to have our enemies forsake their attack and admit their lies, we just have to live with what has been done and entrust ourselves (our reputation and our future) to the LORD. This is not an easy thing to do because, being made in the image of God, we naturally yearn for vindication in the eyes of all who have heard the lies. God’s judgment of such circumstances, however, is often not immediate. Therefore, if we have a clear conscience before God, we have to train ourselves to be at peace before Him regardless of what others say. We must remind ourselves that declaring something does not make it true and truth is what matters in the eyes of God.

For I was envious of the arrogant, as I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

(Ps. 73:3)

I am thankful for the realistic way in which Scripture represents our struggles. It does not by-pass the agony, doubts, anger, or depression of believers. This characteristic is particularly observable in the book of Psalms. Often, David describes his personal fears and reveals the questions that arose in his heart concerning the purposes of God, especially during times when he was suffering unjustly or facing an enemy that threatened his kingdom and his life.

One of the themes on which David comments many times is the apparent prosperity of the wicked while the righteous are oppressed and ill-treated. There were times, as the context for the verse above illustrates, when David knew that he was not guilty of any great offense toward God, yet his welfare was in jeopardy. At the same time, the king observed that the wicked were enjoying security and advancement. These kinds of situations forced David to recognize his own limitations and concede that the ways of God are sometimes mysterious.

When a believer is passing through a trial, perhaps one in which he is being falsely accused of sin, and he notices that those who are truly guilty of breaking God’s commandments face no particular hardship, it can create considerable turmoil in his heart as he wonders why God is letting him suffer, but letting his guilty neighbor remain untouched. In such circumstances, the believer may have very little insight regarding God’s intentions. How, therefore, should the believer react to this kind of challenge?

There is one essential truth to keep in mind when we are enduring the kind of testing I’ve just described. We must keep our focus on what we know to be true. We know, for example, that God’s nature makes Him incapable of treating His children unjustly or in a manner designed to do them harm just for the sake of harm.

Our eyes and ears may be telling us that we have been abandoned. Our observations may lead us to conclude that God is favoring the wicked over His own child. But, as noted, God’s righteous nature and the everlasting validity of His promises make this kind of explanation absolutely invalid.

When we find ourselves in discouraging situations where our discernment is weak and the test we are facing is severe, we should turn our attention to the nature of God. By doing so, our fears will be subdued and our doubts about God’s regard for us will be vanquished. Dwelling on that which we know to be true—the holy character of God and, therefore, the holy character of His works—establishes stability in our heart. We may not know much about what God is doing at the moment, but we will know that His unchanging nature guarantees that His plan is perfect in all respects.

This is the pattern seen in the writings of David. He reveals the anxiety that has filled his mind and he confesses his doubts regarding God’s activity in his present crisis. But as these Psalms continue, David turns to the nature of God and quickly finds that place of peace and assurance as he reviews the truth of God’s holy character. David creates a proper perspective from which to analyze his trial and that results in a dramatic change in his demeanor.

Simply put, there are times in our lives when faith must overrule sight. There are circumstances in which our perception is flawed and, therefore, we need to find steady ground on which to stand as we consider our predicament. Faith, which is grounded in the trustworthiness of God’s revelation of Himself, is the element that allows us to place our burden of uncertainty before God and wait for His will to run its course.

Remember this important verse: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1, emphasis added) Your ability to perceive the intentions of God has nothing to do with the stability of your soul during a trial. Your stability, your confidence, your hope, and your expectation rest in the truth of God’s holy nature.