Monday, June 4, 2012

My God, My God Why Have You Forsaken Me???

Psalm 71:18-24
18 Even when I am old and gray,
do not forsake me, O God,
till I declare your power to the next generation,
your might to all who are to come.
19 Your righteousness reaches to the skies, O God,
you who have done great things.
Who, O God, is like you?
20 Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter,
you will restore my life again;
from the depths of the earth
you will again bring me up.
21 You will increase my honor
and comfort me once again.
22 I will praise you with the harp
for your faithfulness, O my God;
I will sing praise to you with the lyre,
O Holy One of Israel.
23 My lips will shout for joy
when I sing praise to you—
I, whom you have redeemed.
24 My tongue will tell of your righteous acts
all day long,
for those who wanted to harm me
have been put to shame and confusion.

Reflections: We see David’s hope is so firmly planted in who God is despite his circumstances. Though David has been through many travails, his hope is that they would be used in his old age to be a record of God’s faithfulness. David continues to praise God in spite of all these troubles and finds comfort in praising God’s name in the midst of bad circumstances. In fact, not only will he praise the Lord but his lips will shout for joy! This was the great antidote for those who have wanted to put an end to him. His hope, his joy, and his praise continually reflect that God is with him and he is like a candle that cannot be snuffed out.

How can we learn from David? Today is Monday and sometimes Monday can be a hard day! Make sure to begin your day in an attitude of prayer, praise and thanks and God will shine through you no matter what happens to you during the day!

Numbers 22:7-41
Balaam’s Donkey

21 Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey and went with the princes of Moab. 22 But God was very angry when he went, and the angel of the Lord stood in the road to oppose him. Balaam was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him. 23 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with a drawn sword in his hand, she turned off the road into a field. Balaam beat her to get her back on the road. 24 Then the angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path between two vineyards, with walls on both sides. 25 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, she pressed close to the wall, crushing Balaam’s foot against it. So he beat her again.26 Then the angel of the Lord moved on ahead and stood in a narrow place where there was no room to turn, either to the right or to the left. 27 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, she lay down under Balaam, and he was angry and beat her with his staff. 28 Then the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times? ” 29 Balaam answered the donkey, “You have made a fool of me! If I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now. ” 30 The donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?” “No,” he said. 31 Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with his sword drawn. So he bowed low and fell facedown. 32 The angel of the Lord asked him, “Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me. 33 The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If she had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now, but I would have spared her.” 34 Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, “I have sinned. I did not realize you were standing in the road to oppose me. Now if you are displeased, I will go back.”35 The angel of the Lord said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but speak only what I tell you.” So Balaam went with the princes of Balak. 36 When Balak heard that Balaam was coming, he went out to meet him at the Moabite town on the Arnon border, at the edge of his territory. 37 Balak said to Balaam, “Did I not send you an urgent summons? Why didn’t you come to me? Am I really not able to reward you?” 38 “Well, I have come to you now,” Balaam replied. “But can I say just anything? I must speak only what God puts in my mouth.”

Reflections: This is quite an amazing story for many reasons. First, God uses a non-Israelite Balaam, the diviner/prophet to speak truth for Him. While King Balak entices Balak with many means to pronounce a curse on Israel, Balaam is prevented by a donkey who sees the angel of the Lord in his path. Instead of trusting his faithful donkey, who has never acted this way before, Balaam flogs the donkey. Finally, the angel of the Lord reveals himself to Balaam, and he realizes he has sinned. If the donkey had not turned away he would have killed Balaam three times. (Yes, angels are not always like the “precious moments” cards, they are an intimidating and powerful bunch!) In the end Balaam agrees to be God’s mouthpiece, but we will see later how this prophet eventually leads the Israelites astray by his own greed.

This great Old Testament story reminds us that God spoke to His people through various ways, including this faithful donkey. It shows us that God will go to any length to deliver His message and the question becomes we will listen, or do we get so set in our ways that we will continue on our path even if would cause us and/or others great destruction. I have a feeling that God is speaking to us a lot more than we give Him credit for through His Spirit within us. Of course that voice is always in line with the revealed Word of God, but nonetheless God comes to us today to stand in our path and warn us of the consequences of going any further when we are acting against His will. Do you spend time listening to God’s still, small voice? In your busyness do you crowd out the gentle whispers of your heavenly Father? Who are the “donkeys” in your life that help warn you when you are going down the wrong path?

Mark 15:33-47

The Death of Jesus

33 At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”35 When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.”36 One man ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said.37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.38 The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” 40 Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. 41 In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there.

For those who question the humanity of Jesus, one wonders if they have read this passage. Since the Jewish day starts at 6am, approximately sunrise, this is at noon. Of course at noon the sun would have been full in its brilliance, which adds more drama since darkness covered the whole land. Not only was the sun not shining, but the only Son of God was left in darkness both on land and in his relationship with His Father. The same Father who had said, “This is my Son with whom I am well pleased”, now had to turn His back on His one and only Son, in order to make atonement for the sins of all humankind.

As Jesus breathed his last breath alone on the cross, the curtain of the temple separating the holy place from all other parts of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The centurion knew that this was truly the Son of God. The only followers of Jesus left were a few women including Mary Magdalene (who Jesus had healed), Mary the mother of James (and we know from other accounts his own mom, Mary), and some other women. Interestingly the men were all gone. His friends were all gone. Jesus died alone, enduring His Father’s wrath for our sins without the help or encouragement of any friends! Even he was left wondering and searching with the words, “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” Even though He knew His whole life was coming down to this singular purpose to be the suffering Messiah for the world, he longed for His Father’s protection and presence and it was not to be found.

As you struggle at times to feel God’s presence especially in the midst of suffering, remember you have a Savior who can identify with you and has walked in your shoes on the road to the cross.

When you have eaten your fill, take care that you do not forget the Lord. Deuteronomy 6:11-12

Pray then in this way: Give us this day our daily bread. Matthew 6:9,11

Lord, you perpetually provide for us, filling our body and soul with sustenance greater than any we might forage for ourselves. As we partake of your bounty, help us to remember all you have done for us. Amen.

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