Psalm 51, Day 3

Devotional for Wednesday, May 20

Psalm 51:7-9
Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean;
    wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Oh, give me back my joy again;
    you have broken me—
    now let me rejoice.
Don’t keep looking at my sins.
    Remove the stain of my guilt.

At this point in the psalm, David seeks not only forgiveness, he seeks what we Methodists call sanctification. He wants release not only from the sins committed, he wants to be released from the underlying cause of sin, the basic brokenness we all experience as human beings.

To be transformed in such a way is an ongoing process. The trials we undergo in this life can actually help, assuming we use them as an opportunity to turn to God and trust in God to provide a path through them.

In Revelation 7, we hear of those “who died in the great tribulation,” and we see the cleansing power of Christ’s sacrifice. “They have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb and made them white,” we are told. Jesus is the answer in the most difficult of times.

We also see that as painful as our trials and brokenness can be, there is the possibility of joy as we allow God to cleanse us. We have hope.

Meditate today on hope in the midst of repentance and sorrow. We’ll explore sanctification further tomorrow.

Lord, you not only save us, you heal us in the here and now. May your work be complete in this life. Amen.

Seeking His Will

Devotional for Tuesday, May 12

The proverbs found in the Old Testament often provide us with a good opportunity to meditate on what God is saying to us. As I take a look at Proverbs 3:5-12 in the New Living Translation, I’m going to offer what comes to mind for me. I invite you to ponder these words in a similar way.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
    do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
    and he will show you which path to take.

This is the overall theme of these verses. God’s knowledge is superior to ours. Genesis begins with a basic premise that resonates through Scripture: God made all things good, and he made humans capable of freely choosing whether to follow his will, but we chose and continue to choose poorly.

Humans are born broken because of all these historically poor choices, and our minds are too corrupt to be trusted. We were made in the image of God, but the image is cracked. We need guidance—from God’s word, and from direct revelations from God that must be tested against Scripture.

Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom.
    Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil.
Then you will have healing for your body
    and strength for your bones.

Connie and I recently re-watched one of our favorite movies, “Harvey,” starring Jimmy Stewart as Elwood P. Dowd. His family and neighbors consider him crazy because he talks to an invisible 6-foot-3-inch-tall white rabbit.

Dowd seems full of a deeply humble wisdom, though. At one point, he says this: “Years ago my mother used to say to me, she’d say, ‘In this world, Elwood, you must be,’—she always called me Elwood—’In this world, you must be oh so smart, or oh so pleasant.’ Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.”

It strikes me that living in fear of the Lord and turning away from evil is bound to make a person more pleasant. (Now I’m thinking of the conversion of Ebenezer Scrooge.) Age also has begun to teach me that I would rather be around people who prefer being pleasant, regardless of how wise they may be.

Honor the Lord with your wealth
    and with the best part of everything you produce.
Then he will fill your barns with grain,
    and your vats will overflow with good wine.

Let’s not confuse these words with the corrupt “prosperity gospel” being preached, the idea that a dollar given to the church will return to you tenfold, or other claims along those lines. The idea here is much deeper.

Decisions about worldly possessions—how we use them, how we rank them, how we covet them—reveal where our hearts really lie. This is why Jesus spent so much time talking about our relationship to our stuff. When we have riches, we have to suppress the love and confidence we tend to place in them, keeping God first and using our material blessings to bless others.

As we learn to trust God more and more, relying on him for guidance, we find ourselves in a cyclical relationship with him as the God of Abundance, the one who pours out life for all eternity and provisions for now.

This is a complicated subject, one worthy of much study and prayer.

My child, don’t reject the Lord’s discipline,
    and don’t be upset when he corrects you.
For the Lord corrects those he loves,
    just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights.

This assertion may shock or amuse people who consider God a vague and distant notion. But the Lord is involved in our lives in a direct way, and he does try to correct our willful behaviors without taking away our freedom to choose.

I suspect that often, this divine discipline is simply a matter of God letting a situation play out the way we think we want it to go. This would be the adult version of what happens to children who do not believe certain objects are hot until they touch them. God says, fine, your will be done instead of mine.

We can take comfort, however, even as we consider the Lord’s discipline. We are loved, and God wants us to grow into the loving beings he intended us to be from the start. This is a kind of discipline that builds rather than destroys.

Lord, may we find ourselves relating to you more rightly each day, and may any discipline we face grow us rather than break us. Amen.