Speaking Truth to Love
For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah
I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah
Remember your word to your servant,
in which you have made me hope.
This is my comfort in my affliction,
that your promise gives me life.
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
—1 John 1:9
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
—1 John 3:1
In October of 2012 a Taliban militant boarded a bus in Pakistan and shot three girls before fleeing. Eyewitness accounts, including those from two of the shooting victims, left no doubt that the would-be assassin had come to kill the third girl, fifteen-year-old Malala Yousafzai. She had been targeted for speaking out in defense of the right of girls to go to school, and for writing truthfully about the impact of Taliban rule on her country. While still in a coma she was transported to a hospital in England that specializes in treatment of combat injuries. Amazingly, she regained consciousness after six days, and was discharged to rehabilitation after an additional two-and-a-half months. She wrote an international best-selling account of her life in that year (2013) and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.
Malala has been widely recognized as a courageous example of "speaking truth to power". That phrase is often used when describing the actions of a person who says and does what is right despite opposition from those with the power to do them harm, especially in the case of corruption or injustice. Although the phrase may be recent in history, the practice is ancient, and Biblical.
Nathan, Jeremiah, and the unnamed prophet who cried out against the altar on which Jeroboam made offerings are only two of many examples of prophets who spoke truth to power in ancient Israel. John the Baptist spoke truth to power and paid for it with his life. And the book of Acts contains several examples of courageous disciples who spoke truth to power.
Jesus, in his confrontations with the corrupt leadership of Israel, also spoke truth to power. He also spoke truth to power when rebuking the devil. But there's a difference. The opponents of Jesus—both political and spiritual—had no idea that their power was no match for His. And the cross on which they thought they had defeated Him led to the greatest demonstration of His power and their defeat.
Given the tendency of human authorities toward quick and harsh judgment, perhaps it is not surprising that there is also a human tendency to conceal flaws and mistakes. And anyone who has ever had a sincere apology rejected can sympathize a little with the person who is afraid to admit failure. But in this, as in everything else, the Lord completely overturns the flawed expectations of the world.
When we come to Him in humble acknowledgement of our flaws and failures, we are not telling Him anything that He does not already know. We are facing the truth ourselves. More importantly, we are not "speaking truth to power", but instead are "speaking truth to love". We are confessing our defects and needs to the one who loved us more than we can imagine. We are coming in the name of the one who loved us so much that He took on the power of evil. And defeated it.
He gives power to overcome the world to those who will speak the truth to love.
God is love.
For my father and my mother have forsaken me,
but the Lord will take me in.
Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations.”
A man of many companions may come to ruin,
but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
“Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.”
“And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.”
Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”
That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.”
Closeness means care and safety and belonging.
The Law prohibited the priests from becoming unclean through contact with a dead body, but made an exception for close members of their families. The Law also gave close relatives the right and responsibility to act as "redeemer" of family members who had fallen on hard times, a key theme underlying the book of Ruth. And Boaz instructed Ruth to stay “close” to his work crew during harvest so that she—a foreign woman alone—would be safe from mistreatment.
The Lord chose Abraham, because of his faith even before the Law was given, to receive an amazing promise: not just of a home for his physical descendants, but also that Abraham would be a link in the chain through whom the Lord would bless all of humanity. But in the centuries that followed, the Israelites kept allowing other things to become closer—more important—to them than the Lord: their own will or even convenience, their desire to be like the nations around them, their own performance of both Law and tradition, and even their ancestral link to Abraham.
Jesus was betrayed by one who lost the closeness that their relationship could have had. And John records Jesus quoting from the Psalm of David that laments, “Even my close friend...has lifted his heel against me.” But in fulfilling everything to which the Law and Prophets and Psalms had been pointing, Jesus also fulfilled the promise to Abraham. By tearing apart the veil, He not only removed the barrier between flawed humanity and our Creator, He tore down the dividing wall that separated Jew from Gentile, so that all who would be children of Abraham by faith could be adopted into the family of the One who was Father before Abraham.
The One who is closer to us than anyone else. As close as the Spirit that He placed in the hearts of His children.
As close as His breath that He breathed into our lungs.
Lead me in your truth and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all the day long.
Good and upright is the Lord;
therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
He leads the humble in what is right,
and teaches the humble his way.
—Psalm 25:5, 8-9
“And I will lead the blind
in a way that they do not know,
These are the things I do,
and I do not forsake them.”
—Isaiah 42:16 (excerpt)
Thus says the Lord,
your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“I am the Lord your God,
who teaches you to profit,
who leads you in the way you should go.”
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
...and [Saul] asked [the high priest] for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
The way of the Lord leads through the wilderness to the Father.
The Lord knew that the Israelites were not ready for conflict with the inhabitants of the coastlands, so the way from Egypt to the Promised Land led through the wilderness. The Lord led them with a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire, not only because they did not know the way, but because they needed His presence. Moses pleaded with the Lord to go with them after the disastrous incident of the golden calf. The Lord led them and fed them and gave them water.
The way of the Lord leads through the floods to the promised home.
The Jordan river, at flood stage, separated the Israelites from the land that the Lord had promised to Abraham and his descendants. Or so it appeared. But when the priests carrying the ark of the covenant reached the overflowing river, the waters parted from Adam down toward the dead-end Salt Sea. The people were following the ark because they had not “passed this way before”, and so the representation of the Lord's presence still led them.
When Immanuel—“God with us”—came to walk the dust of the earth with humans made from the dust of the earth, and to fulfill all that the Lord had taught and promised from the beginning to the end, the shock waves reached backward to Adam and forward to the end of time—a living end for those who submit to walk in His way.
The Way of the Lord leads His followers.
Jesus identified Himself as “the way, the truth, and the life”, resonating and expanding on the teaching of “truth” and “way” of which Psalm 25 sings.
That identification was so strong, that it even resonates in the early term used to describe the distinctive teaching and lives of His followers—“the Way”—as recorded in Acts. They were His followers precisely because He led. Just as He has always led those who would follow since the beginning.
He leads us in the way we should go, He walked with us on the way, and He became the Way.
So that we could follow the Way to the Father.
Chase and Chased
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
“Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness,
you who seek the Lord:
look to the rock from which you were hewn,
and to the quarry from which you were dug.
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.
So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
—2 Timothy 2:22-23
“Whoever desires to love life
and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
and his lips from speaking deceit;
let him turn away from evil and do good;
let him seek peace and pursue it.
—1 Peter 3:10-11 (quoting from Psalm 34)
Sometimes a chase scene adds excitement to a movie. But sometimes it provides the essence of the plot.
In the 1972 Western, Jeremiah Johnson, the title character, burned out by his experiences as a soldier, starts a new life as a trapper in the Rocky Mountains. Through circumstances not of his making, Johnson is placed in conflict with the Crow people, who pursue him seeking vengeance.
An even more extreme example is the 1965 action movie, The Naked Prey, centered on a safari guide whose client brutally offends the local population. After that client and his party are killed in revenge, the guide is given one chance: stripped of his clothing, equipment, and weapons, he is allowed only a small headstart before the warriors begin to pursue him. The unusually small amount of dialogue in the movie highlights the fact that the chase itself is the center of attention as the guide flees across the striking landscape.
David certainly understood being chased. A large part of the recorded details of his life deal with David being pursued by Saul. Several of the Psalms speak of pursuit, either metaphorically or literally. And there are many other scenes in the history of the Israelites that deal with some form of pursuit.
Isaiah called on those in Israel who would remain faithful to pursue righteousness, and in doing so, to remember the heritage of their people and take courage from the knowledge of the Lord's faithfulness. Paul encouraged the disciples in Rome to overcome the temptations of conflict and judgmentalism by pursuing peace and looking out for the health of the body of believers. And he encouraged Timothy to “pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace” by fleeing from passions, controversies, and quarrels. Peter quotes Psalm 34 as he encourages the readers of his letter to pursue peace, by fleeing evil and deceit.
Because we know how much of David's life was spent being pursued by hostile enemies, his conclusion in Psalm 23 has added force, as he writes of being chased by the goodness and mercy of the Lord.
In a sense, the essence of the plot of the Bible is a loving God pursuing His straying—even rebellious—children to bring them back to safety. And in the words of David and the prophets Azariah and Jeremiah: “If you seek Him, He will be found by you.”
- Ladies Bible Class 10:00 We would love for you to join us using the Zoom link below. We are currently reviewing the first nine chapters of the book of Hebrews. Jayne Warren is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting. Join Zoom Meeting https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85807387852 Meeting ID: 858 0738 7852 One tap mobile +16468769923,,85807387852# US (New York) +16469313860,,85807387852# USJoin our Cloud HD Video MeetingZoom is the leader in modern enterprise video communications, with an easy, reliable cloud platform for video and audio conferencing, chat, and webinars across mobile, desktop, and room systems. Zoom Rooms is the original software-based conference room solution used around the world in board, conference, huddle, and training rooms, as well as executive offices and classrooms. Founded in 2011, Zoom helps businesses and organizations bring their teams together in a frictionless environment to get more done. Zoom is a publicly traded company headquartered in San Jose, CA.us02web.zoom.us
Save us, O Lord our God,
and gather us from among the nations,
that we may give thanks to your holy name
and glory in your praise.
Let not your heart envy sinners,
but continue in the fear of the Lord all the day.
Surely there is a future,
and your hope will not be cut off.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead
—1 Peter 1:3
As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
—1 Peter 2:4-5
The sculptures on Mount Rushmore have sometimes been described as carved from "living rock". What?
The phrase "living rock" may seem strange on first hearing. It means rock that is still in its original location, where it occurs naturally, rather than being quarried and transported elsewhere. It means rock that has not been disconnected from its source.
We are likely more familiar with the phrase "living water", due to its use in the teachings of Jesus. But it has other uses that refer to water that is freely flowing, rather than sitting in a stagnant pond or puddle. It means water that has not been disconnected from its source.
The opposite of being connected and in the right place is to be "cut off", a phrase which occurs throughout the Torah as the penalty of extreme, willful sin for which “that person shall be cut off” from the people of Israel.
Isaiah's prophecy of the Suffering Servant described one who was “cut off” for the transgression of others. It was fulfilled as Jesus hung on the cross, crying out to the Father, “Why have you forsaken me?”
Jesus taught His disciples, “I am the vine; you are the branches.” Only the branches that remain connected to the source of life remain alive and produce fruit. The Vinedresser cuts off the branches that do not produce fruit. And Paul reminded the gentile readers of his letter to the believers in Rome that the gentile disciples had been grafted in. And that includes us.
Peter's letter takes us back to “living stone”, a phrase that he first uses to describe Jesus as the bedrock and cornerstone of faith, then going on to apply it to all those who are connected to Him and being “built up” into a new temple not made with hands. And that includes us.
As long as we remain connected to the source.
Nevertheless, he looked upon their distress,
when he heard their cry.
They angered him at the waters of Meribah,
and it went ill with Moses on their account,
for they made his spirit bitter,
and he spoke rashly with his lips.
Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock. And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.”
...for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.
—1 Corinthians 10:4b-5
Pressure can turn a rock into sand; it can also turn a lump of coal into a diamond.
Moses cracked under pressure at Meribah. After all the complaining and resistance that he had endured from the Israelites, we might be tempted to understand that he was fed up. But perhaps, after all the Lord had brought him through since the moment at the burning bush, Moses needed to know that the Lord hadn't run out of water. It's not mine to judge.
There have been many ideas offered about what Moses did that displeased the Lord: some have suggested that it was because he struck the rock instead of speaking to it, or that he spoke to the Israelites instead of to the rock. The description of the incident in Psalm 106 seems to draw our attention to two things.
Moses seems to have lost his temper. James wrote that “the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” While it is true that anger and bitterness rob us of peace and blind us to the Lord's presence, there is also the very real issue that it doesn't work. We see no indication that the grumbling Israelites responded to Moses' outburst.
Moses risked taking credit for the work of God, or at least putting himself on the same level as God, when he asked, “...must we bring water...” When Cornelius fell down in worship, Peter insisted that he “Stand up; I too am a man.” After Paul healed the crippled man at Lystra, the awe-struck pagans wanted to offer sacrifice to Paul and Barnabas. But this distressed Paul and Barnabas so much that they tore their clothes and pleaded with the crowd to give the glory to God instead.
And there's one more lesson in this scene: even though Moses and Aaron failed to handle the moment as they should, the Lord still gave the Israelites the water that they so desperately needed. Even when they stumble, the Lord can work through flawed servants.
The grace of God is greater than the pressures we face, even when we fail.