Psalm for a Dark Night

PHOTO: via Donald Tong, PEXELS

Lord, just today I read

That Paul and Silas were

Stripped and beaten

With wooden whips.

“Again and again the rods

Slashed across their bared backs”

But in their desolate dungeon

Their feet clamped in stocks

They prayed.

They sang.

They praised.

In this musty midnight of my life

Imprisoned in the dungeon of confusion

Bound by chains of anguish

Help me, please help me

To pray

To sing

To praise

Until the foundation shakes

Until the gates fling open

Until the chains fall off

Until I am free

To share the Good News

With other chain-bound prisoners.

– RUTH HARMS CALKIN,

TELL ME AGAIN, LORD, I FORGET

WHERE DID PRAYER FIT IN THE LIFE OF JESUS?

prayer, #prayer, #praying, jesus, #jesus,
Photo by Matheus Bertelli @ Pexels

JESUS TAUGHT THROUGH Paul that Christians ought to “pray constantly” (1 Thes. 5:17 CSB; cf. Jn. 16:13). While He obviously did not pray unceasingly, at least in the sense of never stopping, His life was marked and accentuated by prayer. The Lord was always in a prayerful mode. Consider the testimony of Scripture:

IN MATTHEW

He taught the inconsistency of a hypocritical life and prayer. 6:5-8

He trained His disciples about how to pray. 6:9-13

He thanked His Father in a brief prayer after being rejected by certain cities in Galilee. 11:25-27

He prayed up on a mountain by Himself after the thousands tried to force Him to become their king. 14:23; cf. Mk. 6:46; Jn. 6:15

He prayed and gave thanks before miraculously feeding the 4000. 15:36

He prayed for and put His hands on little children. 19:13; cf. Mk. 10:13-16; Lk. 18:15-17

He prayed at the institution of the Lord’s Supper. 26:26; cf. Mk. 14:22-23; Lk. 22:19

He offered the same fervent prayer three times in Gethsemane before His betrayal. 26:39, 42, 44; cf. Mk. 14:32-42; Lk. 22:39-46; Heb. 5:7

He cried out to His Father in prayer and identified Himself as the Messiah. 27:46

IN MARK

He arose long before daybreak and got off by Himself to pray before His first sermon in Galilee. 1:35

He taught a relationship between prayer and fasting. 9:29

He taught the apostles to pray in belief. 11:24

He taught that prayers are accepted contingent upon our forgiving others. 11:25-26

He fell prostrate on the ground and asked His Father to deliver Him from the cross. 14:35, 39

IN LUKE

He prayed at His own baptism. 3:21

He habitually withdrew into the wilderness alone to pray. 5:16

He prayed all night before selecting the twelve. 6:12-13

He was praying at His transfiguration. 9:28-29

He prayed after hearing the report of the seventy. 10:17-19, 20-21

He taught about the importance of persistence in prayer. 18:1ff

He prayed that Peter’s faith would not fail. 22:32

He withdrew about a stone’s throw from Peter, James, and John and knelt to pray in Gethsemane. 22:41

He prayed such a fervent, intense prayer in Gethsemane that His sweat became like drops of blood. 22:44

He prayed that the Father would forgive those who crucified Him in ignorance. 23:34

He prayed right before He died that the Father would accept His spirit. 23:46

He prayed before the meal with the disciples at Emmaus. 24:30

IN JOHN

He prayed in public at the tomb of Lazarus. 11:41-42

He prayed that He would glorify His Father in His crucifixion. 12:27-28

He prayed the “High Priestly” prayer for Himself and His disciples. 17

Jesus recognized the necessity of being in constant communication and intimate communion with His Father. He exemplified the concept of pray and was strengthened as He walked in Heaven’s will. Let’s emulate Him (1 Cor. 11:1).

“God loves you and I love you and that’s the way it’s gonna be!” –Mike

WHEN DID SATAN QUOTE SCRIPTURE – AND WHY DOES IT MATTER?

Some brief thoughts from Mat. 4:6

THERE ARE ONLY three occasions in Scripture where the devil spoke directly to others (cf. Gen. 3, Job 1-2, and Mat. 4/Lk. 4). In Genesis he spoke TO the woman ABOUT God (vv. 1, 4-5), in Job he spoke TO God ABOUT a man (1:9-11; 2:4-5), and finally, in Matthew he spoke TO God the Son ABOUT God the Father (vv. 3, 6, 9). For the sake of this abbreviated study, let’s notice this last speaking engagement in the first Gospel account (ch. 4:1-10).

Remember that following each of the devil’s three temptations, the Lord answered with “it is written” (vv. 4, 7, 10) and then quoted Old Testament Scripture (cf. Deut. 8:3 LXX; 6:16; 6:13). But notice in the second temptation in Matthew’s account (cf. the third in Luke—vv. 10-11) that THE DEVIL LIKEWISE QUOTED SCRIPTURE TO JESUS—specifically from Psalm 91. Yes, Satan said, “It is written” too, and then he quoted God’s word verbatim to the Word incarnate.

A few observations about the devil and his quoting Scripture are in order:

1. The devil was somehow CONSCIOUS OF GOD’S WORD. Remember that back in Genesis 3 he asked the woman about what GOD HAD SAID, but here in Matthew 4 he actually quoted what GOD HAD SAID through the prophet in the 91st Psalm. Does this therefore mean that because Satan referenced and quoted the Bible that he is all knowing? No. The devil is not deity; he is not omniscient. He is a CREATION, not the CREATOR (cf. Col. 1:16; Exo. 20:11; Mat. 25:41).

The Hebrew writer said, “He Himself (Jesus) likewise shared in the same (i.e., flesh and blood—Jn. 1:14), that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil” (2:14b—emphasis mine, mb; cf. Col. 2:15; 2 Tim. 1:10; Psa. 132:11). The devil had the power of death, and in fact, was indirectly responsible for the death of Jesus. Ironically, that death was the very means by which the tempter lost his battle with the God the Father. Had he foreknown that Jesus’s death would be his own demise, the tempter would have never sought to bring Christ to Calvary in the first place.

2. But BECAUSE SATAN IS NOT ALL-KNOWING, THAT DOESN’T MEAN THAT HE IS NOT KNOWING IN ANY SENSE OF THE TERM. Consider the fact that he spoke a) intelligently through the agency of the serpent in Genesis, that he spoke b) logically to God in Job, and finally, he spoke c) shrewdly to Jesus in the wilderness allurements (cf. 2 Cor. 11:14). It’s obvious the devil possesses the ability to know, think, and reason.

Someone asks, “But how is it that the devil, as a rational spirit-being, was able to know God’s Word in Matthew 4?” We don’t know; we can only speculate, but what we must realize, especially from the New Testament account is that while, yes, the devil did quote Scripture, and he did initiate those words (just like Jesus did!) with “It is written,” HE TOOK PSALM 91:11-121 OUT OF ITS CONTEXT.

“The passage is a general promise to those who make God their refuge, and Satan merely made application to Christ, with unholy intentions to the say the least”1

“Satan quoted these words (vv. 11, 12) to Jesus on Mount of Temptation (Mat. 4:6). Jesus answered his quotation by pointing to Deuteronomy 6:16, a verse that qualifies this promise and commands the servant of God not to deliberately test God regarding His goodness. God’s guarantee of deliverance is to be accepted by faith. It is dependent upon and enjoyed by God’s follower, but jumping from a temple wing to see if God will keep His word is putting God to an unnecessary trial. Doing so would, signal unbelief. Jesus did not diminish God’s promise; he gave it the proper meaning.”2

“The devil tempted Jesus to jump off the pinnacle of the temple and be saved by angels. Jesus declined to tempt God. Boles noted that “this verse was written to encourage faith, not to encourage presumption” (101). This verse is not an assurance that we can pursue any silly endeavor we want. It is a general promise of care and protection for God’s people… Verse 13 highlights the hyperbole of the passage. Not many of us have been asked to take a walk on a bed of lions and deadly snakes. We do not know what it is God’s will to ferry us through situations of tribulation unharmed. The point is that if He has the will, then He also has the power. This passage teaches us to trust in both the power and the wisdom of Jehovah.”3

Satan quoted two verses in Psalm 91 passage that referred to God’s general protection of His faithful, but this misapplied and twisted it to suggest that it specifically promised to Jesus that the Father would keep Him from any harm.

Satan took a GENERAL truth that applied to God’s faithful as a whole, but then subtly twisted (cf. 2 Pet. 3:16) and misapplied it to SPECIFICALLY refer to Jesus. The Lord immediately recognized the tempter’s subversive tactic and countered with Scripture himself in context.

But now consider our brief study from a modern, practical vantage point:

3. Many people, LIKE THE DEVIL, know some part of God’s Word, but they either intentionally or unintentionally, take it out of context, and make it say something it doesn’t say at all (cf. Heb. 5:12-14; 2 Pet. 3:16). For example, when an individual references 1 Cor. 1:17 and then claims that baptism isn’t necessary for salvation, he’s taking it out of context (Mat. 28:19-20; Mk. 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21; Rom. 6:3-4; 17-18. When a person quotes Mat. 7:1 and says, “Jesus says you can’t judge…”, he’s obviously failed to read the verse in its context. The Lord continued, “First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (v. 5). And so rather than saying, “Don’t judge another person in any fashion,” Jesus actually taught the very opposite, and told us to make sure that before we judge our brother, we need to be sure that we’re not guilty of that which we condemn. When a brother recites Matthew 18:20 before he neglects the worship assembly of the saints in order to go hunting or fishing with a couple of friends, it’s painfully apparent that he’s wrenched the passage out of its original context and made it say something our Lord never meant to say.

Here’s the point, beloved. We are perhaps never more like the devil than when we take a verse out of its context and make it say something that God never said. He distorted and warped the Bible to fit his own personal narrative, and if we’re not very careful, we can do the same thing – to our eternal demise.

Let’s READ the Bible, let’s STUDY the Bible in context, and then let’s teach our friends exactly what the Bible says (cf. Mat. 28:18-20).

“God loves you and I love you and that’s the way it’s gonna be!” – Mike

1 Tom Wacaster, “Those Who Put Their Trust in Jehovah,” The Songs and Devotions of David – Psalms 90-108, Vol. 5, 40.

2 Eddie Cloer, “God, Our Dwelling Place,” Truth For Today Commentary – Psalms 90-118, 33.

3 Joseph T. McWhorter, “Psalms 90-93,” Studies in Psalms – Vol. 2 (73-150), The Denton-Schertz Commentaries, Editor, Stan Crowley, 194.

WHEN IS CONFESSION NOT CONFESSION?

THERE ARE AT least seven individuals in Scripture who confessed outwardly and/or inwardly, “I have sinned…”

They include:

  1. Pharaoh – Exo. 9:27; 10:16,
  2. Balaam – Num. 22:34,
  3. Achan – Josh. 7:20-21,
  4. King Saul – 1 Sam. 15:24, 30
  5. King David – 2 Sam. 12:13; 24:10; Psa. 41:6
  6. Judas Iscariot – Mat. 27:4, and
  7. The youngest of the two prodigal sons – Lk. 15:18, 21.

Of this number, ONLY TWO experienced genuine remorse for their actions and were willing to turn away from their transgressions, even though all seven of them orally confessed essentially the same three words.

But how do we, and can we, determine the identity of the two who were sincere (one in each Testament), as opposed to the five who were not so inclined?

Is it possible to pour through the Bible, read and study the context of each man’s situation, and then decide which of them said more than “I have sinned,” but they actually exhibited penitent hearts of true contrition?

Consider:

When Pharaoh said, “I have sinned” his was a FEIGNING confession. He just wanted the plagues of hail and locusts to stop (Exo. 9:28; 10:17). The wicked monarch was like a soldier in a foxhole entreating God in prayer for deliverance, only to return to his former sinful ways after the artillery barrage is over.

When Balaam said, “I have sinned,” his was a FAKE confession because he felt compelled to justify the beating of his innocent, defenseless donkey that had seemingly rebelled against him (Num. 22:22-30), when the prophet himself was attempting to defy the Lord’s authority (v. 32). The seer was like an arrogant politician who believes that rules and laws only apply to the masses, but not to himself.

When Achan said, “I have sinned,” his was essentially a FORCED confession because his number one concerned was not over the fact that he had broken God’s command (Josh. 7:20), or that he was solely responsible for the deaths of three-dozen men (Josh. 7:11-12, 15; 1 Chron. 2:7; cf. Isa. 59:2), but that he and his family would mutually pay the austere wages of his own selfish sin (Josh. 32:23; cf. Rom. 6:23). He was like the immature child who complains and cries because he knows he’s going to be disciplined for not listening to his Father’s instructions.

When King Saul said, “I have sinned,” his was a FAULTY confession because he initially denied disobeying God (1 Sam. 15:13, 15), and then later offered a weak alibi (1 Sam. 15:20-21) to vindicate himself of his obvious guilt. The proud ruler was like the insincere person who says, “IF I have done anything wrong against you, I apologize…”

When Judas said, “I have sinned,” his was a FRUITLESS confession because a) he had been a long-time thief of his fellow-disciple’s money (i.e., the treasury box – Jn. 12:6), b) he knew experientially that Jesus was the Messiah (Mat. 16:20), but c) he also knew that he had sold out his sinless Savior for thirty pieces of silver (Mat. 26:15; cf. Exo. 21:32; Zech. 11:12-13). The wayward apostle was alike a self-deceived criminal who thinks he can indiscriminately break the laws of the land and still escape the consequences of his misconduct.

But now, pay very close attention to David and the Prodigal, because while both of them also confessed their sins, their heartfelt words were first born out of a keen personal realization that they had offended the Father (cf. Luke 18:9-14). Watch:

David lamented to Jehovah, “Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight…” (Psa. 51:4).

Likewise, the younger prodigal agonized, “How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you…” (Lk. 15:17-19a).

The two mourned the enormity of their iniquities that had separated them from their Father (cf. Isa. 59:1-2; Psa. 51:1ff), while the five were less concerned about the sin and separation, and more worried about the consequences of their rebellion towards Him (cf. 2 Cor. 7:10).

“But Mike, what do all of these confessions tell me – especially about honest confession of my sins?”

These individuals tell us a great deal about the MOTIVES behind our confessions.

Beloved, WHEN (not IF) we sin, we need to take a long, in-depth look at WHY we admit, “I have sinned” (cf. 1 Jn. 1:8).

Is our confession sincere and indicative of a broken and contrite spirit (Psa. 51:17; Isa. 57:15) that acted in defiance of the Heavenly Father, OR is it a weak and feeble means of covering our transgressions?

The Bible says, “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy” (Prov. 28:13).

Think about it.

“God loves you and I love you and that’s the way it’s gonna be!” – Mike

SHOULD WE LISTEN TO MOSES OR JESUS?

ALMOST 1,400 YEARS before Jesus came in the flesh, Moses told the Israelites: 

“The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren.  Him you shall hear” (Deuteronomy 18:15; emphasis mine—mb). 

Centuries later, after the Lord fed the five thousand with loaves and fish, the people realized the fulfillment of this ancient prophecy.  “Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, ‘This is truly THE PROPHET who is to come into the world’” (John 6:14).

The apostle Peter later confirmed this when he preached at Solomon’s porch, For Moses truly said to the fathers, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you A PROPHET like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you.  And it shall be that every soul who will not hear THAT PROPHET shall be utterly destroyed from among the people’” (Acts 3:22-23).  The martyr, Stephen, also declared this truth (cf. Acts 7:37-38). 

But how was Jesus a prophet like Moses?  Study the following passages and note the striking parallels: 

1.  Both were sent from God.  Exodus 3:1ff; John 8:42

2.  Both were born under foreign rule.  Exodus 1:8-14; Luke 2:1

3.  Both, as infants, were threatened by wicked monarchs.  Exodus 1:15-16; Matthew 2:16

4.  Both spent their early years in Egypt and were miraculously protected from harm.  Exodus 2:10; Matthew 2:14-15

5.  Both rejected the offer and opportunity to become world rulers.  Hebrews 11:24; Matthew 4:8-9

6.  Both were initially rejected by their peers.  Exodus 32:1; Isaiah 53:3; Matthew 27:21-22; John 1:11

7.  Both suffered disrespect.  Numbers 16; John 12:37; Mark 6:4

8.  Both had family who let them down.  Numbers 12:1; John 7:5

9.  Both were teachers.  Deuteronomy 4:1-5; Matthew 22:16; John 3:2

10.  Both were prophets and spoke on behalf of God.  Exodus 4:15; John 8:26

11.  Both knew God on an intimate level.  Exodus 33:11; Deuteronomy 34:10; John 1:18

12.  Both spoke directly to God.  Exodus 3:1-10; Deuteronomy 34:10; Luke 9:34-36

13.  Both gave the people bread from heaven.  Exodus 16:14-15; John 6

14.  Both performed miracles.  Exodus 4:1ff; Deuteronomy 34:10-12; John 5:36

15.  Both were deliverers—Moses delivered Israel from the bondage of Pharaoh; Jesus delivered spiritual Israel, the church, from the bondage of Satan.

16.  Both were shepherds.  Exodus 3:1; John 10:10-11; Matthew 9:36

17.  Both were baptized.  1 Corinthians 10:1-2; Matthew 3:13-17

17.  Both fasted forty days in the wilderness.  Exodus 34:28; Matthew 4:2

18.  Both were mediators.  Deuteronomy 4:5; Exodus 32; Hebrews 8:6; 1 Timothy 2:5

19.  Both of their faces shone with the glory of heaven.  Exodus 34:34-35; Matthew 17:12

20.  As Moses lifted up the bronze serpent in the wilderness to heal the people, so Jesus was lifted up on the cross to heal obedient believers from their sins.  Numbers 21:8-9; John 3:14; 12:32

21.  As Moses sent out twelve spies to explore Canaan, Jesus sent out twelve apostles to reach the world.  Numbers 13; Matthew 10:1

Even though there are many other similarities which the two share in common, God made it clear whom we are to follow and obeyWhile he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him” (Matthew  17:5).