• How Do we Deal with the Ugliest Verse in the Bible?

    Happy is the one who seizes your infants
    and dashes them against the rocks.
    Psalm 137:9
    They are terrible words aren’t they? They are words that should bring us to have a strong emotional reaction. They are words which many opposed to Christianity will quote in an effort to show the invalidity of the Bible and Christianity. How should a Christian interpret these verses?
    As always we start with the context. We read in verse 1 that they are in Babylon which leads us to assert that this psalm was written after the Babylonians had taken Judah into exile. This had happened because the Israelites had continually rebelled against god their maker and worshiped other gods.
    In war terrible things happen. I dare say that the man who wrote this psalm had seen terrible things done in the name of war as he and his family were taken off to Babylon.
    He probably saw things that made him scream out things like:
    Happy is the one who seizes your infants
    and dashes them against the rocks.
    Psalm 137:9
    See these are not the words of a politician or a general coming up with a war strategy. These are the deeply pained words of one who has been through war and seen the atrocities of war. He screams out because he wants vengeance. Is this vengeance sinful? Yes.
    So why is it in the Bible? I think there are two reasons for this. Firstly, God’s people are in Babylon because if their own sin. They rebelled against god and worshiped other gods. These words are a result of them rebelling against god therefore I think these words are in the BIble to show us where rebelling against God ends up. When you rebel against God you end up in a place which is so ugly and depraved that you may cry out ugly and sinful words like these.
    Secondly, when we take these words in the context of the rest of the book of psalms we see the psalms are full of different kinds of emotion, some high and some very low. One of the reasons that the psalms are replete with emotional language is to show God can connect with and even does welcome our deepest darkest emotions. Therefore I am tentatively proposing that  these words are in the psalms to show that God cares for those of us that are so hate filled that we would utter or think words akin to these. These kind if displays of emotion show that in the end we may want vengeance but we need a saviour who will rescue us from ourselves and ultimately ourselves.
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  • Has God Changed?

    I remember it vividly. My Dad’s chest was rising and falling very weakly, he was about to take his last breaths.

    I was overcome with grief.

    My mind was flooded with questions:

    How could God have let this happen?

    Where is God in this mess?

    But one question kept coming into my head over and over. “Is God not good?”

    When circumstances change it is very easy to think that God has changed. When everything is going good it is so easy to think that God is good, but when life kicks you in the soul it is hard to think that he is still in control, let alone good. It is easy to think God has changed. The God who we once knew, who filled our lives with vibrancy and love has changed into a cruel and angry God.

    But hear what God says about himself:

    Psalm 102:25-27

    In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth,
        and the heavens are the work of your hands. 
    They will perish, but you remain;
        they will all wear out like a garment.
    Like clothing you will change them
        and they will be discarded.
     But you remain the same, 
        and your years will never end. 

    James 1:17

    Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

    Psalm 33:10-11

    The Lord foils the plans of the nations; 
        he thwarts the purposes of the peoples.
    But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever,
        the purposes of his heart through all generations.

    Did you hear what God says about himself? Psalm 102 says the earth will wear out like the T shirt I am wearing but God remains for ever and that he remains the same. Unlike a T shirt which will fade and stretch and get wrecked God doesn’t change. James says God doesn’t change, he is still the one who gives good gifts. Psalm 33 says that God’s plans can’t be thwarted. My plans can be. City-rail decides to cancel a train, someone rings at an inopportune moment, there is someone using the machine I wanted to use at the gym. Things like these ruin my plans everyday. My plans fail all the time but God’s don’t… ever!

    When life kicks us in the soul has God changed? No he hasn’t, he is still the good God that called you to know and love him even though your faith has seen better days. He is still the same God who called you and your spouse together even though your marriage is on rocky ground.  He is still your heavenly father who loves you even though your dad never got a chance to see his beautiful granddaughter.

    Circumstances change, life kicks you in the soul.

    But God doesn’t change.

    Faith is trusting in God even when it feels like he has changed.