Theme: Rightly Using God’s Blessings
In this week’s lessons we observe how David expresses himself honestly before God, and see how God hears and understands the great difficulties we go through.
Scripture: Psalm 69:19-36
Jesus’ command to forgive our enemies and the Psalmist’s imprecations may seem like a contradiction, yet that is not the whole story. It is true that we are not to take vengeance. Paul says this in Romans 12, writing, “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (v. 19). But just because we are not to take judgment into our own hands does not mean that we should not want justice to be done or that God will not punish sin eventually. It is significant in this respect that Paul, the same author who says, “Do not take revenge… but leave room for God’s wrath,” also quotes verses 22 and 23 of Psalm 69 (in Romans 11:9, 10) as a prophecy of a judicial blinding of the majority of the people of Israel because of their rejection of Jesus Christ.
What is unique about Paul’s use of these verses is his teaching that in their unbelief even those things which should have been a great blessing to the Jewish people—presumably the things he lists at the start of chapter 9 (“the adoption as sons… the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises… the patriarchs,” vv. 4, 5)—have become a “snare,” “trap,” “stumbling block” and “retribution” for them in their unregenerate state.
This is a critical point. It means that if the blessings of God are misused—and they always are misused unless we allow them to lead us to faith in Jesus as our Savior—they will inevitably harden our hearts, propel us into further sin and eventually lead to even greater judgment.
There is a powerful statement of this principle at the very end of the Old Testament, in Malachi. Malachi’s days were bad days. The people, led by their priests, were far from God. They were so far from God that when he sent Malachi to rebuke them, their response was one of hostile surprise and confrontation: “How have you loved us?… How have we despised your name?… How have we defiled you?… How have we wearied him?… How are we to return?… How do we rob you?… What have we said against you” (Mal. 1:2, 6, 7; 2:17: 3:7, 8, 13)?
The priests were chiefly to blame for this attitude. So the strongest judgments are pronounced against them: “If you do not listen, and if you do not set your heart to honor my name… I will send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not set your heart to honor me” (Mal. 2:2).
Here is where Psalm 69:22, 23 and Paul’s use of these verses in Romans come home forcefully to us. If individual Jews, who were a chosen nation, missed salvation because of their rejection of Christ and if, as a result, the blessings of God that had been given to them became a curse for these people, then it is entirely possible (indeed probable) that many sitting in the evangelical churches of America today are also missing salvation because of their failure to trust Jesus in a personal way and that their blessings have become curses too.
Do you understand that? It means that if you will not allow the good things we enjoy as allegedly Christian people to lead you to Christ, which is what God has given them to us for, then they will be worse than worthless to you. They will actually be harmful and propel you inevitably into an even greater spiritual stupor, hardness of heart and sin.
Here are four examples.
Baptism. Baptism is an outward sign of an inward, spiritual union with Jesus Christ. It is meant to strengthen our faith by making the inward reality more palpable to us. But countless allegedly Christian people have trusted the outward sign without the inward commitment. They have judged themselves to be saved persons without any true following after Jesus Christ. Therefore, the very thing that should have been an instruction and blessing to them has become a false ground of hope.
The Lord’s Supper. Entire branches of the church teach that grace is somehow imparted in the physical partaking of the elements, so that the physical act by itself conveys salvation. But the reality is not physical. The Lord’s Supper is meant to show us the broken body and atoning blood of Jesus Christ and lead us to trust him and place our faith in him, not the ceremony. Thus, if we do not trust Christ, the sacrament, which is intended to do us good, actually becomes a curse for us and we become superstitious and even pagan in our practice.
How can blessings become a trap?
Explain in your own words how the blessings of baptism and the Lord’s Supper can become curses for us.
Reflection: How are our days like those of Malachi? Can you think of times when the sacraments of the church became a snare for you because you only practiced them out of habit?
Application: Malachi says to “set your heart to honor my name” (2:2). How can you honor God this week?