Eternal Savior Lutheran Church

A member of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod

2688 North Park Drive
Lafayette, CO 80026
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Feb. 27 – The Glory and Power of God, or the High Places?

“For they provoked Him to anger with their high places; they moved Him to jealousy with their idols.  When God heard, He was full of wrath, and He utterly rejected Israel.  He forsook His dwelling at Shiloh, the tent where He dwelt among mankind, and delivered His power to captivity, His glory to the hand of the foe.  He gave His people over to the sword and vented His wrath on His heritage.” Psalm 78:58-62

Devotional Thought For The Day

The psalmist continues to recapitulate the history of Israel and God’s responses to their rebellion against His Word and His will. The “high places” were attractive geographical elevations where pagan idol worship frequently took place. Obviously, this idolatry moved God to “jealousy” and fierce wrath. The jealousy was His good and gracious will for His people, that they know Him and His great mercy and redeeming love for them, so that they might reflect His character and nature in their relationships with others. His “jealousy” is not some personal shortcoming, but rather an aspect of His deep love for us and His eagerness for all that is good for us. He knows that human beings reflect outwardly their inward perceptions of God, or of their “gods,” and that this, their “faith,” is determinative of their inner being and their quality of life and behavior. Idolatry, false religion, and misbelief are all from the devil, and have consequences that determine and dictate the nature and quality of a human being, making their adherents devilish in their thoughts, desires, and behaviors. Of course God would be jealous, and wrathful and angry about this – for we are His creatures, we belong to Him, and our downfall [and perversion of being] is a very personal attack against Him, against His love for us, His will for our good.

The period of history being referred to may very well be that time described in 1 Samuel 4 when the ark of the covenant was brought from Shiloh and captured by the Philistines. What is crucial for us to grasp is that God always uses “means” to bestow His gracious, loving, merciful, and giving presence – the ark and the “tent of meeting” was “His dwelling at Shiloh, the tent where He dwelt among mankind.” The lid of the ark was the “mercy seat,” a term that the apostle Paul used in identifying Jesus Christ – the “hilasterion.” [Rom. 3:25] The actual blood of atonement splashed on the mercy seat was the “hilasmos,” which the apostle John used to identify Jesus Christ. [1 John 2:2] This is what they rejected and despised, opting for the “high places” instead. This ark was His power and glory – as well as His great means of merciful and forgiving presence. And those who thrust it from themselves, who reject it, are in fact thrusting God, the only True and Living God from themselves, and rejecting Him. Take careful consideration of this – the ark, the mercy seat, and the blood of atonement, all of this is Christ, the Lamb of God.

All of this is nice history, and nothing but history, unless we understand how it applies directly to us – we who are human beings, God’s creatures, living today. It is no longer an “ark” and “mercy seat” and “sacrifices of atonement” that God uses as means for His gracious, merciful, and loving presence among His people today. Christ has come – the fulfillment of all these things, He Who is the “hilasterion” and “hilasmos” of God, and it is Christ Himself Who is our advocate with the Father [1 John 2:1], and Who has promised, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age,” and also, “wherever two or three are gathered together in My Name, there am I in the midst of you,” [Matt. 28:20; Matt. 18:20].  The means of His gracious presence, His “power and glory,” and also His gracious mercy and forgiveness, His redemption and salvation and eternal life, are more pervasive and accessible. By His own Word of power He has proclaimed “This is my body . . . this is My blood of the New Covenant, shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” This is where He calls us to receive His great blessings, to see Him and know Him, so that we too can reflect His character in our inner being, and in our behavior.

Obviously, His response to those who prefer the “high places,” the idolatry, ignorance of God, and perversion of inner being, in place of His love, is the same today as it was back then – jealousy for our good and welfare, and wrath, anger, and indignation. Any nation that opts for this devilish idolatry is subject to the same judgment that befell ancient Israel – “He gave His people over to the sword and vented His wrath on His heritage.” It is fundamental, just how things are – so let us take care that we remain devoted to His love, in those places where He has designated that we will find Him and receive His gracious mercy and love, and let us pray for the many around us who have chosen the high places, that perhaps by God’s grace they may be moved to repentance and the true faith.

Scripture Cited

Rom. 3:25  “[Christ Jesus] Whom God set forth as a propitiation [hilasterion] through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.”

1 John 2:2  “He [Jesus Christ the Righteous] is the blood atonement [hilasmos] for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”

Prayer For The Day

Dear Lord Jesus Christ, help us to grasp the gracious and gentle ways in which You invite us back to love, through Your redemption and salvation. Forbid that we be lured back to the high places common today, and lose the renewing and transforming power of Your love. Draw us to Yourself, that we may partake of and fellowship in You, the blood of atonement for our sins. Amen.