Christianity 201

February 17, 2019

Hi-Tech vs. Low-Tech vs. Trusting in God

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 am
Tags: , , ,

Some of you know the verse,

Psalm 20:7 CEB  Some people trust in chariots, others in horses;
    but we praise the Lord’s name.

Psalm 20:7 NASB  Some boast in chariots and some in horses, But we will boast in the name of the LORD, our God.

The point of the verse is that our confidence should be in God, and at the times we win the battle, the credit should go to the Lord.

But the dichotomy between chariots and horses is what struck me today about the verse. Chariots were definitely the high-tech tool of the day. One look at the movie Ben Hur is enough to convince of their strategic position in battle. On the other hand, horses seem rather old-school by comparison.

We do this today in our churches, but to extremes. We’ve put the traditional “horses” out to pasture, counting instead on drawing crowds to our teaching through the latest high-tech gear, and keeping or tracking them through the use of the latest apps. Who needs a pot-luck lunch when people are engaging with us all week on Facebook?

But even the pot-luck was an attempt to use a program to do the work that only the Holy Spirit can do. Sure, it creates a vehicle whereby people can interact with one another and the Spirit can work powerfully through those conversations. But we should never feel that we need to do these things for the church to advance.

Let’s see what some classic writers said about this verse:

William Plummer* writes:

In war, chariots, horses, navies, numbers, discipline, former successes, are relied on; but the battle is not to the strong. “Providence favours the strong battalions” may sound well in a worldling’s ear, but neither Providence nor the Bible so teaches. In peace, riches, friends, ships, farms, stocks, are relied upon, yet they can neither help nor save.

Henry Melvill* writes:

By the name of God is generally understood, in Holy Writ, the various properties and attributes of God: these properties and attributes make up and constitute the name of God. As when Solomon says, “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runneth into it and is safe.” And, by remembering, considering, meditating upon this name of God, the psalmist represents himself as comforted or strengthened, whatever might be the duties to which he was called, or the dangers to which he was exposed.

Others were for looking to other sources of safety and strength, “some trusting in chariots, and some in horses;” but the psalmist always set himself to the “remembering the name of the Lord our God;” and always, it would seem, with satisfaction and success. And here is the peculiarity of the passage on which we wish to dwell, and from which we hope to draw important lessons and truths — the psalmist “remembers the name of the Lord his God;” not any one property or attribute of God; but the whole combination of divine perfections.

John Calvin** writes:

We see how natural it is to almost all men to be the more courageous and confident the more they possess of riches, power and military forces. The people of God, therefore, here protest that they do not place their hope, as is the usual way with men, in their military forces and warlike apparatus, but only in the aid of God. As the Holy Spirit here sets the assistance of God in opposition to human strength, it ought to be particularly noticed, that whenever our minds come to be occupied by carnal confidence, they fall at the same time into a forgetfulness of God. It is impossible for him, who promises himself victory by confiding in his own strength, to have his eyes turned towards God. The inspired writer, therefore, uses the word remember, to show, that when the saints betake themselves to God, they must cast off every thing which would hinder them from placing an exclusive trust in him.

Years ago, while in my early 20s, I missed a service at a church I loved to attend every week, and I asked my friend what he could recall from the sermon. He quoted a line without telling me it had been spoken facetiously: We don’t need the Holy Spirit, we have technology.

As hard as it is to believe, that is the very bedrock of many modern churches. We march forth into the battle against the world, the flesh and the devil (or substitute, the culture) on our own strength and try to build the Kingdom of God using the latest programs, tools, trends, or devices.

When Moses struck a rock he was told by God to merely speak to, he got the water the people needed, but he had disobeyed to do so and it cost him. Just because you’re getting results doesn’t mean you’re doing it God’s way.

But we’ll save Moses and the rock for another day.

-PW


*Sourced at BibleStudyTools.com
**Sourced at StudyLight.org

March 15, 2017

Right Results, Wrong Method

Numbers 20 (NIV):

1In the first month the whole Israelite community arrived at the Desert of Zin, and they stayed at Kadesh. There Miriam died and was buried.

2 Now there was no water for the community, and the people gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron. 3 They quarreled with Moses and said, “If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before the LORD! 4 Why did you bring the LORD’s community into this wilderness, that we and our livestock should die here? 5 Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!”

6 Moses and Aaron went from the assembly to the entrance to the tent of meeting and fell facedown, and the glory of the LORD appeared to them. 7 The LORD said to Moses, 8 “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.”

9 So Moses took the staff from the LORD’s presence, just as he commanded him. 10 He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” 11 Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.

12 But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.”

This passage contains an interesting sequence of events:

  • The people are thirsty
  • God reveals to Moses that water can be obtained by speaking to a particular rock
  • Moses hits the rock instead (this worked before)
  • Water gushes forth

Maybe God had His instructions wrong, or maybe it applied to some other rock? After all, the water issued forth and the thirst of the people was satisfied.

Hardly. Moses was angry. “…Listen you rebels…” In anger he struck the rock.

In Moses defense, he was using a tried and true formula; see Exodus 17. And he got the desired result. No biggie, right?

The point is that Moses disobeyed; he did God’s work in a sense, but didn’t do it God’s way.

I find myself often guilty of this. I can justify something done in anger because it produced results. I’ve even said to myself, “I think sometimes you just have to get mad enough about something and then God uses that anger.”

Yes. I’ve really thought that. More than once.

And there is such a thing as righteous anger. But it is characterized by being shaped over a long-term, not a short-term; and by its righteousness more than its anger-ness.

James 1 19b & 20 (NIV)

…Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.

Whether or not you feel like you are more a product of the information age or the industrial age, either way you are probably results oriented.

But just because it worked doesn’t mean that God was in it, or that He was pleased, or that you were obedient. Even if the “worked” in question seems to bear the mark (vs. 11) of the miraculous.

And a great danger lies in trusting in what worked before, when God wants to lead you into something new.

And like Moses (vs. 12) by doing it our way, you and I may be missing out on God’s greater blessing and the fullness of God’s highest goal for our lives.

~PW


*Reader mini-survey:

Just curious… Have blog posts here resulted in you making the author’s blog part of your daily or weekly routine?  My hope is that in introducing you to a wide variety of Christian devotional and Bible-teaching bloggers, some of them will resonate with you to the point you bookmark their sites and/or subscribe, making their writing a regular habit.

March 23, 2012

Just Because You Get Results…

Numbers 20 (NIV):

1In the first month the whole Israelite community arrived at the Desert of Zin, and they stayed at Kadesh. There Miriam died and was buried.

 2 Now there was no water for the community, and the people gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron. 3 They quarreled with Moses and said, “If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before the LORD! 4 Why did you bring the LORD’s community into this wilderness, that we and our livestock should die here? 5 Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!”

 6 Moses and Aaron went from the assembly to the entrance to the tent of meeting and fell facedown, and the glory of the LORD appeared to them. 7 The LORD said to Moses, 8 “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.”

 9 So Moses took the staff from the LORD’s presence, just as he commanded him. 10 He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” 11 Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.

 12 But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.”

This passage contains an interesting sequence of events:

  • The people are thirsty
  • God reveals to Moses that water can be obtained by speaking to a particular rock
  • Moses hits the rock instead (this worked before)
  • Water gushes forth

Maybe God had His instructions wrong, or maybe it applied to some other rock?After all, the water issued forth and the thirst of the people was satisfied.

Hardly. Moses was angry. “…Listen you rebels…” In anger he struck the rock.

In Moses defense, he was using a tried and true formula; see Exodus 17. And he got the desired result. No biggie, right?

The point is that Moses disobeyed; he did God’s work in a sense, but didn’t do it God’s way.

I find myself often guilty of this. I can justify something done in anger because it produced results. I’ve even said to myself, “I think sometimes you just have to get mad enough about something and then God uses that anger.”

Yes. I’ve really thought that. More than once.

And there is such a thing as righteous anger. But it is characterized by being shaped over a long-term, not a short-term; and by its righteousness more than its anger-ness.

James 1 19b & 20 (NIV)

…Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.

Whether or not you feel like you are more a product of the information age or the industrial age, either way you are probably results oriented.

But just because it worked doesn’t mean that God was in it, or that He was pleased, or that you were obedient. Even if the “worked” in question seems to bear the mark (vs. 11) of the miraculous. 

And a great danger lies in trusting in what worked before, when God wants to lead you into something new.

And like Moses (vs. 12) by doing it our way, you and I may be missing out on God’s greater blessing and the fullness of God’s highest goal for our lives.

~PW


Finding an image to attach to today’s thoughts landed me at the blog Agapegeek! If you want to go really, really deep into today’s passage, click on the image above.


If you’re a newcomer to C201, scripture verses here are in green because the scriptures have life.  Nothing that the contributors here write carries as much weight as God’s word. If the passage doesn’t have life to you, read it again!