November 6, 2015

Grace and Cooperation

1 Kings 8:1–53, Mark 5:21–6:6, Proverbs 2:1–15

Years ago I read a book called “His Part and Ours.” I might read it again because these Bible passages talk about what God does and what my response should be, and that book clarifies the differences.

In the first of today’s readings, Solomon completed the temple and offered a prayer of dedication. As I read it, I’m thinking of how it could also be a personal prayer of dedication to the Lord. Solomon included this plea:

“When your people Israel are defeated before the enemy because they have sinned against you, and if they turn again to you and acknowledge your name and pray and plead with you in this house, then hear in heaven and forgive the sin of your people Israel and bring them again to the land that you gave to their fathers.” (1 Kings 8:33–34)

For me, this fits. Sin is the beginning of becoming a loser. Confession of sin brings forgiveness and cleansing (1 John 1:9) and restoration. For Israel, that meant going back to their promised land. For me, it means returning to my hand in hand walk with God. If I go my own way, I soon start stumbling in the dark.

More can be lost. Solomon talks about no rain because of sin, or no food, or instead battles with blight, disease, insects and plague. Yet each disaster is changed by God when His people confess and turn from their sin. He also talks about being taken captive. In their situation, this was a literal event with enemies who carried swords. In mine, it is being held captive by sinful thoughts, words, or deeds that I cannot fight by myself.

Again, Solomon says,  “If they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you are angry with them and give them to an enemy, so that they are carried away captive to the land of the enemy, far off or near, yet if they turn their heart in the land to which they have been carried captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their captors, saying, ‘We have sinned and have acted perversely and wickedly,’ if they repent with all their mind and with all their heart in the land of their enemies, who carried them captive, and pray to you toward their land, which you gave to their fathers, the city that you have chosen, and the house that I have built for your name, then hear in heaven your dwelling place their prayer and their plea, and maintain their cause and forgive your people who have sinned against you, and all their transgressions that they have committed against you, and grant them compassion in the sight of those who carried them captive, that they may have compassion on them” (1 Kings 8:46–50)

Solomon wrote about wisdom saying if I receive the words and treasure the commandments, if I listen to wisdom, turn my heart to understanding, call for insight and seek it like silver or hidden treasures, then I will understand what it means to fear the Lord and find His knowledge. He gives wisdom; His words deliver knowledge and understanding. (Proverbs 2:1–6)

Not only that, when wisdom comes into my heart, and knowledge is pleasant to my soul; discretion will watch over me, understanding will guard me, delivering me from the way of evil, from people of perverted speech who forsake uprightness to walk in darkness, and who rejoice in doing evil and delight in perverseness. (Proverbs 2:9–15) I’m thankful God shows me what and how, but without my obedience, all that would be useless.

In the NT, the people are puzzled about God’s part and human effort too. Jesus, who is fully God and fully man, confounded them. When He taught in the synagogue of His hometown, many who heard him were astonished: “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” They stumbled trying to understand who was doing what.

Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” The Scripture adds, “He could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief. And he went about among the villages teaching.” (Mark 6:1–6)

Jesus could heal, but they were not doing their part of believing. Jesus can save, yet my part is reaching out to Him. I cannot do any of it by myself.

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