Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A handful of bribes




Scripture

O LORD, I love the habitation of Your house And the place where Your glory dwells.
(Psalms 26:8 NASB)
Do not take my soul away along with sinners, Nor my life with men of bloodshed,
(Psalms 26:9 NASB)
In whose hands is a wicked scheme, And whose right hand is full of bribes.
(Psalms 26:10 NASB)
But as for me, I shall walk in my integrity; Redeem me, and be gracious to me.
(Psalms 26:11 NASB)
My foot stands on a level place; In the congregations I shall bless the LORD.
(Psalms 26:12 NASB)

Observation

Living for many years in the former Soviet Union it seemed that we lived day in and day out with people constantly wanting bribes. This was not something that was done in secret, but rather, had become the commonplace practice of society. Excusing the requests for bribes people would say, "well, we need to eat too." However, the pervasive undercurrent of a lack of morality continuously chipped away at the society leaving a moral vacuum.

The Psalmist is writing about living in similar world. The immoral practices of society have received tacet approval and the concern is that one could simply be swept away with the crowd. The Psalmist cries out for salvation, that their soul would not be swept away by the immorality of the world. A world in which people are always scheming, planning for ways to meet self-serving goals and willing to take anything they want from the weak. Instead the Psalmist realizes it is better to go and spend time in the Lord's house because that is where the presence of the Lord dwells. If he stays firm in the house of the Lord, the Lord, himself will give him the strength to stand up to the corruption of the world and to walk in integrity. Not only will he be able to stand, but his path will be made straight, he will not stumble and he will regularly go to the house of the Lord where he will be able to bless the Lord.

Application

The reality is that the challenges of the day today are not all that unfamiliar. Maybe in the US we are not accustomed to blatant requests for bribery, but let's be honest, we do seem to face self-centeredness on a regular basis. We expect to find it out in the "world" but sometimes we are shocked when we find that those who call themselves followers of Christ act in the same way.
Recently someone calling themselves a follower of Christ suggested that they could show their dislike for what was happening in a local church by with-holding their tithe. In reality is this bribery. They are saying, either do it my way, or you don't get the money that you need to run the church! This is not Biblical. Never should we stoop to the worlds' tactics to make a point.
The Psalmist gives us very practical advice on how to avoid falling in to the trap of responding in a worldly way and using the worlds tactics.

#1. Regularly attend the house of the Lord. It is in the house of the Lord that the Psalmist experiences the glory of God. The glory of God is his presence. It is by regularly visiting with God and sitting in his holy presence that we may gain the strength to live a lifestyle that is counter-cultural.
#2. Allow God to transform us. We are transformed and therefore our behavior changes. The result is that our reactions become transformed into the reactions of Jesus Christ. In this regard we can take the "high road." We walk in integrity as people who will not stoop to the deceitful practices of this world.
#3. Let the Lord take care of the work of redemption. We are redeemed by the Lord, himself. I know there are times that we wish this would happen sooner, rather than later. However, there are times when it simply requires a protracted period of faithfulness to God and time in the glory of his presence for God's redemptive work to be done. Hang in there. God is eternal and time has a completely different meaning to him. He has promised that he will redeem us! I think of Dietrich Bonhoeffer who lived a life of integrity which led him to death in a concentration camp. Where is the redemption in that? However, his record has been cleared and his ministry continues into all of eternity. He has been redeemed.
#4. Stand firmly on level ground. Once I continue to spend more and more time in his holy presence, the temptations of this world no longer become stumbling blocks. Those stones are removed from my path and the desire and ability to walk in integrity is no longer hindered by the things we confront in this world. My path becomes level and my feet are steady in the faith. I am no longer drawn away to the reactions of this world, or by self-centered desires.
#5. Let me repeat -- spend time in the house of the Lord. The result is that I have no desire to hurt the congregations of the Lord, but rather, my desire is to be in the house of the Lord, blessing the Lord and his congregation.

Prayer

Lord, thank you for the practical advice from your word. Please, help me to walk in integrity and may I praise you in your house! Amen.

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