NORTH MINNEAPOLIS PRAYER FOR 11/18/17: RIGHTEOUSNESS (PART 6)

ISSUE: God's Will-Righteousness (Part 6)

Tonight, we continue our study of God's Will in bringing forth His righteousness in Christ in the world. Our prayer is for North Minneapolis to be filled with the Spirit of Righteousness, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ. We desire to see and savor Christ by the Spirit and through the Spirit's work in our lives and community. We pray the same for you and your community. May the whole world be filled with the righteousness of Christ which loves to do the will of God on earth as it is done in Heaven.

FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT, THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST

Do you desire to be filled with righteousness? I believe you and I were designed to yearn for this. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”[1] There has been a consistent message of craving throughout Scripture. It, too, begins in the garden. Adam and Eve could eat of any tree therein, except the Tree of Knowledge. The trees were beautiful to look upon and good to eat, but still Adam and Eve hungered for something more.[2] They hungered to be equal to God. We all hunger for this. We act as God and do what is right in our own minds, or sight.[3] This shared human tendency has a goal: to justify one’s self. Jesus explained this in Luke 16:15 and exposed the problem: “So He said to them, "You are the ones who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is prized among men is detestable before God.”

The context of Jesus’ words points to our desire to be wealthy. He presented a parable of a steward who was wasting a rich man’s goods.[4] The rich master called him into account. His reaction was to go and call all of his master’s debtors on their accounts. He gave them discounts in order to earn favor. His goal was to make friends in the world that would welcome him once he was released from service to his master. The passage gives us an interesting insight into his mind: “The manager thought to himself, ‘Now what? My boss has fired me. I don’t have the strength to dig ditches, and I’m too proud to beg. Ah, I know how to ensure that I’ll have plenty of friends who will give me a home when I am fired.’”[5]

We can find ourselves wasting the good gifts God has given us just like the shrewd steward. We take for granted much of what we receive without considering we do not deserve it, it is not from us, but it is a gift instead. All good gifts come to us from God.[6] Adam was given the whole earth to steward. He was to enjoy this blessing and to go out and fill the earth with the glory of God.[7] The one place he was told to not eat was in the center of the garden, yet that is where we see him fall.[8] How can you enjoy the gift of filling the earth and taking it captive for God, enjoying its fruit and feast if you stay near the one thing restricted by God? But desire has a way of captivating and subduing us. We all do it. We have so many options that are a yes, yet we can get hung up on the thing or things that we have not been given.

Mankind, has followed this pattern of cravings, wanting or hungering for things that are not ours. We can look right at the ten commandments and see the depth of our desires. Jesus taught us the same truth. The Ten Commandments expose our idolatry. We have bad eyes and often see the grass as greener on the other side of the fence. We take for granted several things. First, our Father does not withhold any good thing from us.[9] All His children have to do is ask and His heart is to give us what is good.[10] But what happens when you don’t get what you want? Why did you want it to begin with?

The issue at the root of the problem is an improper understanding of what we need. Adam and Eve sought equality with God, but what they needed was not equality, but God Himself. Instead of desiring God and recognizing Him as infinitely worthy of worship and obedience, the heart craved what God possesses and elevated it. Instead of worshipping the Creator and desiring to taste and see that He is good, they (and we) worshipped created things and minimized the infinite uncontainable truth about God by making images of Him that reflected the limited and man-centered things we prefer over Him in His fullness. Just take a look at the images men make.[11]

The Golden Calf: The young bull, which Aaron caused to be fashioned, was a pagan religious symbol of virile power. A miniature form of the golden calf, although made of bronze or silver, was found at the site of the ancient site of the Philistine city of Ashkelon. Since it dates to about 1550 B.C. indicates that calf worship was known not only in Egypt, but also in Canaan prior to the time of Moses.[12]

Nanna, the moon god of Ur, worshiped by Abraham before his salvation: Nanna, who is also called SIN, was reflected in the image of a bull and is tied to a hope for fertility.[13]

Asherah, or Ashteroth, the goddess of the sea: Asherah was associated with male deities including Yahweh. In a number of instances the reference seemed to be to some sort of cult object symbolizing a goddess, perhaps a wooden pole or a tree, or an image or even (though difficult to equate with the idea of a goddess) a phallic symbol. Other references seemed to be to a goddess, but prior to the discovery of the texts from Ugarit, some thought that the allusion was to the goddess Ashtoreth/Astarte (see 4.5 below), whereas others thought that it was to some other deity.[14]

Dagon, the chief Philistine agriculture and sea god and father of Baal: A major West Semitic deity who became the national god of the Philistines after their arrival in Canaan. Dagon’s character remains disputed. One portrayal of Dagon as fish-god arose from a folk etymology based on Heb. dāg̱, “fish.” Another suggests Dagon as god of grain (dāg̱ān), the latter word taken from the deity’s name or vice versa. Yet another view sees such a fertility aspect as derived from Dagon’s primary role as a storm-god and reconstructs an etymology for the name based on Arab. dagana, “to be gloomy, cloudy.”[15]

Molech, the god of the ammonites and the most horrible idol in Scriptures: The fire god of the Ammonites, to whom human sacrifices were offered; Moloch. Lev. xviii. 21.[16]

Baal, the chief deity of Canaan: As the Sun-god, Baal was worshipped under two aspects, beneficent and destructive. On the one hand he gave light and warmth to his worshippers; on the other hand the fierce heats of summer destroyed the vegetation he had himself brought into being. Hence, human victims were sacrificed to him in order to appease his anger in time of plague or other trouble, the victim being usually the first-born of the sacrificer and being burnt alive. In the OT this is euphemistically termed “passing” the victim “through the fire” (2 Ki 16:3; 21:6). The forms under which Baal was worshipped were necessarily as numerous as the communities which worshipped him. Each locality had its own Baal or divine “Lord” who frequently took his name from the city or place to which he belonged. Hence, there was a Baal-Zur, “Baal of Tyre”; Baal-hermon, “Baal of Hermon” (Jgs 3:3); Baal-Lebanon, “Baal of Lebanon”; Baal-Tarz, “Baal of Tarsus.” At other times the title was attached to the name of an individual god; thus we have Bel-Merodach, “the Lord Merodach” (or “Bel is Merodach”) at Babylon, Baal-Melkarth at Tyre, Baal-gad (Josh 11:17) in the N. of Palestine. Occasionally the second element was noun as in Baal-Shemaim, “lord of heaven,” Baalzebub (2 Ki 1:2), “Lord of flies,” Baal-Hamman, usually interpreted “Lord of heat,” but more probably “Lord of the sunpillar,” the tutelary deity of Carthage. All these various forms of the Sun-god were collectively known as the Baalim or “Baals” who took their place by the side of the female Ashtaroth and Ashtrim. At Carthage the female consort of Baal was termed Pene-Baal, “the face” or “reflection of Baal.”[17]

Do you see the commonalities? There are things wanted and desired. In some cases its fertility, others its for crops and wealth, then there are gods who come from a need to sacrifice for whatever reason the worshipper might have. Sometimes that just dealt with appeasing a perceived anger which resulted in attributing the failure of a crop to grow. The evil that flowed out of the desires to have include child sacrifice, cult prostitutes, and a bondage to “do” something to get what was wanted. That’s not a lot different than what we see today, is it? The association with an image that represents those desires presents a false perception of God. It divides God’s power and makes Him into a genie. It also really shows that the truth about God has been severely distorted. God certainly does not give by demand, but by want. We call that grace. And He has made it clear He does not desire to see us sacrifice a human life, more less a child.[18]

Mankind has had a desire to own and possess what they want. We do it in such a sinful, evil way that we give up everything, evidenced in the insanity that creates lifeless depictions of God in the form of far lower and lesser created things like bulls and fish people, that it is hard to grasp when dealing with it today. But, we still do this. The desires have not disappeared. God calls this outworking of desire the definition of unrighteousness.[19] In Romans 1:29, God records what this unrighteousness does: it fills man with its fruit which is sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness. He then reiterates what this man has become full of which is envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness. How does that unrighteous spirit manifest? “They are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful.[20] But it gets worse when it speaks of the condition: “who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.”[21]

Paul opens up the problem of sin and shows how we are all sinners and in need of God’s righteousness and mercy. The desire we have to command god and get what we desire misses the reality of who God is altogether. We don’t understand His character and what it means for us, so we go into the darkness of the mind, filling ourselves with evil and darkness, when we were made to be filled with his light, the knowledge of God Himself. Better than that, God has given us Himself as a sacrifice that secures all we really need which is ultimately forgiveness of sins.

After addressing the painful agony of life as a saint-sinner[22], Paul heads to our hope. Though sin is in our flesh, those who believe in Jesus have the Spirit of God who lives in us.[23] We who are a people that have practiced child sacrifice have a God who breaks through all of our darkness and evil by His Word and explains how He has done what is needed. The promise at the end of Romans 8 is that God is working to take care of all of our true needs and we can be assured He will not withhold any of the things we truly need because of action we can see how faithful God is to complete the process of saving us. All of these gods who have had a hold on us, all of our fears, and all of the evil desires that have taken over our bodies and minds as we gave ourselves to them cannot stand against God or separate us from Him. “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him freely give us all things?”[24]

Are you still unconvinced that this has to do with idols? Listen to the list of things that can no longer separate God’s Holy Spirit indwelled people from Him: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?”[25] But it goes further: 36 As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” The idolotrous sacrificers have become the hunted and killed helpless sheep of God.

Still, in case we didn’t see who our enemies are and how insufficient they are as well, God makes it plain in Paul’s words: “37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” No dreaded thing, not a spiritual power or created thing, can come and snatch us away from God’s saving hand. All of this is rooted in the person and work of God in Christ, but Christ does what we really need: He comes to dwell in us. The old spirit is gone. All of those evil things we desired and feasted on and were left unsatisified and ruled by get cast out as Jesus places His Holy Spirit in us to live and lead us out of darkness. We never walk alone again, but are held and carried to the face of Christ by His Holy Spirit.[26] All that we need is provided on our behalf. We are free and at the same time learning what this means. It’s a reality we begin to walk in before we can really savor it.

The craving for god’s glory is therefore misguided. We seek to feel the hunger in our emptiness with things that cannot satisfy. Worse still, the more we feast, the sicker we get. But in that desire is the yearning for what we really need, what we were created for: to hunger for the righteousness of Christ.[27] The promise is sure. If you truly hunger for Christ’s righteousness, not a righteousness of your own, then you will be filled. Count on it. Take it to the bank. And if you already know Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior, enjoy Him also as Treasure because that is what He is. Look upon Him and enjoy God’s righteousness. Savor it. Drink from the fountain that creates a well spring of life in you. Eat from the bread that satisfies your true hunger. Be filled. Feast.



[1] MATTHEW 5:6

[2] GENESIS 2:9

[3] PROVERBS 21:2; 16:2

[4] LUKE 16:1; 16:1-13

[5] LUKE 16:3-4

[6] JAMES 1:7

[7] GENESIS 1:28

[8] GENESIS 2:28

[9] PSALM 84:11; 34:9; 85:12; PROVERBS 2:7

[10] MATTHEW 7:11

[11] I will reference several gods found on in the chart “False gods in the Old Testament” page 61 of The MacArthur Study Bible Twentieth Anniversary Edition

[12] From footnote on Exodus 32:4 in The MacArthur Study Bible Twentieth Anniversary Edition on page 141.

[13] http://oracc.museum.upenn.edu/amgg/listofdeities/nannasuen/

[14] From “Asherah” in IVP’s Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books accessed on Accordance

[15] From “Dagon” in Eerdman’s Dictionary accessed on Accordance

[16] From “Molech” in Webster’s Dictionary accessed on Accordance

 

[17] From “Attributes of Baal” in THE INTERNATIONAL STANDARD BIBLE ENCYCLOPAEDIA accessed via Accordance

[18] LEVITICUS 18:21. I recommend reading what God says His people should not do in this passage. They tie directly to the things that were done in the false religions. Only God’s true religion is distinguished and ultimately painted clearly in the person of Christ.

[19] ROMANS 1:18-32

[20] ROMANS 1:29-31

[21] ROMANS 1:32

[22] ROMANS 7

[23] ROMANS 8:9

[24] ROMANS 8:31-32

[25] ROMANS 8:35

[26] ROMANS 8:1-27

[27] MATTHEW 5:6