Why did this happen?

As Jesus was leaving the temple in Jerusalem, “he saw a man which was blind from birth” (John 9:1). Most likely, this man was begging by the roadside. Because he had been blind since birth, his condition would have been considered to be the result of a sin his parents had committed or perhaps, punishment for a sin that he had committed while he was in his mother’s womb or even while he was in a preexistent state (note on John 9:1). Most people would have shunned this man and treated him as if he were a nuisance to society. As they passed by, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2). In other words, the disciples wanted to know, why did this happen to him?

Jesus’  response to his disciples question revealed that the man’s blindness was not some sort of punishment, but an opportunity for God to work in his life. Jesus said, “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in his life” (John 9:3). The Greek term translated manifest, phaneroo (fan-er-o’-o) is derived from the word phaneros (fan-er-os’) which means “shining that is apparent” (5318). Jesus went on to say, “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:4-5). The Greek term translated light, phos (foce) means “to shine or make manifest especially by rays” (5457). A similar term, phemi (fay-mee’) means “to show or make known one’s thoughts that is speak or say” (5346).

A primary objective of Jesus’ ministry was to make the truth known about God’s character and his attitude toward sinners. The Jewish religious leaders tried to convince people that a sinless life was possible and that their behavior was the perfect example of how to live a godly life. In reality, Jesus was the only sinless person ever to exist and he was continually harassed by the Pharisees and scribes because he wouldn’t do things the way they wanted him to. When Jesus healed the man that was born blind, he did it in such a way that it was obvious that the man’s faith was involved or the healing couldn’t have taken place. It says in John 9:6-7 that Jesus, “spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, and said to him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is interpreted, Sent).”

The blind man demonstrated his faith or belief that his blindness was not a permanent condition when he did what Jesus told him to. The light that Jesus shed on this man’s situation was that he had the ability to see even though he was born blind. The truth of the matter was that God didn’t want to punish this man, but to make him whole. As a result of his healing, the man was questioned by the Pharisees in order to get some evidence against Jesus because in order to heal the blind man he made clay on the Sabbath, something they considered to be against the law. The man that was healed said this about Jesus, “Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. If this man were not of God, he could do nothing” (John 9:32-33).

Transition

John the Baptist played an important role in the transition that took place during Jesus’ three-year ministry on earth. John marked the end of the old economy in which sacrifices for sins had to be made on an ongoing basis. John’s statement, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) indicated that Jesus would radically change the way God’s people worshipped him. At the end of his life, after he had been imprisoned for his message of repentance, John began to have doubts and became deeply discouraged. Because of his confusion about the situation, John sent two of his disciples to ask Jesus, “Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?” (Matthew11:3). Jesus told John’s disciples to remind him of all the things that were happening. He said, “The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them” (Matthew 11:5).

Jesus’ controversial message brought fear and doubt to many people because they didn’t understand God’s plan of salvation. The transition from works of righteousness through sacrifice to God’s free gift of redemption was a hard one, mostly because it meant that anyone could enter into God’s kingdom, if he was willing to admit he was a sinner and couldn’t save himself. The hyper-critical Pharisees in particular, thought they were keeping the law and were perfect in God’s sight. Jesus exposed these men’s judgmental attitudes and cautioned his followers. Jesus taught in his Sermon on the Mount, “For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20). The problem was that no one believed it was possible to be more righteous than a Pharisee. The Greek words Jesus used for exceed, perisseuo (per-is-syoo´-o) pleion (pli´-own) mean to superabound, to be greater than or in excess of what is required (4052/4119).

During the transition from the Old Covenant, the Mosaic Law, to the New Covenant, salvation by grace, Jesus emphasized the importance of the Jews attitude toward what they thought was sinful behavior. He stated, “For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil. The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children” (Matthew 11:18-19). The point Jesus was trying to make was that the people were not content with their new situation. They wanted everything to be as they liked, comfortable and easy to handle. In essence, they thought Jesus and John the Baptist were too radical. The Jews were looking for a nice, middle of the road viewpoint to follow. The statement, “But wisdom is justified of her children” (Matthew 11:19) was meant as a criticism of the Jews lack of awareness of the extreme sacrifice Jesus was making by taking upon himself the responsibility for saving the world.

Rejoicing

After the rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem was completed, there was a celebration in which the wall was dedicated. Nehemiah’s description of what took place showed that it was a very joyous occasion. He said, “And at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought the Levites out of their places, to bring them to Jerusalem, to keep the dedication with gladness, both with thanksgiving, and with singing, with cymbals, psalteries, and with harps” (Nehemiah 12:27). Nehemiah choreographed a sequence of steps and movements that involved dividing the Levites into two great companies. According to Nehemiah’s plan, “One went on the right hand upon the wall toward the dung gate…with the musical instruments of David the man of God, and Ezra the scribe before them…And the other company of them that gave thanks went over against them, and I after them, and half of the people upon the wall” (Nehemiah 12:31,36,38).

Nehemiah went on to say, “Also that day they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced: for God had made them rejoice with great joy: the wives also and the children rejoiced: so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard even afar off” (Nehemiah 12:43). One of the songs that was likely sung at the dedication of the wall was Psalm 126. This short psalm is part of a collection of psalms known as the songs of degrees which were sung by Jews that traveled to Jerusalem for festivals. Psalm 126 focuses on the fulfillment of God’s promise that his chosen people would return to the Promised Land after their captivity was completed. It says:

When the LORD turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, The LORD hath done great things for them. The LORD hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad. Turn again our captivity, O LORD, as the streams in the south. They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him. (Psalm 126)

A key statement in this psalm is actually a promise that reveals God’s intent in sending his people into captivity. Psalm 126:5 states, “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. God dispenses his blessings based on a system of sowing and reaping. Jesus eluded to this in one of his teachings known as the beatitudes which means supreme blessedness (Matthew 5:3-11). Before they went into captivity, God’s people lacked faith and were unresponsive to his warnings about the dangers that lay ahead of them. After they returned to the Promised Land, the Jews were thankful and felt extreme joy even though they were dealing with great affliction and reproach from the nations around them (Nehemiah 1:3).

Obedience

While the Jews were in captivity in Babylon, they were expected to conform to the laws and customs of the kingdom in which they lived. The book of Daniel records two incidents where disobedience was punished by death. The first was Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego who were thrown into a fiery furnace for not worshipping a golden image made by the king Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 3:21) and the second was Daniel who was thrown into a lion’s den because he prayed to his God instead of King Darius (Daniel 6:16). When it was discovered that Esther’s uncle Mordecai would not bow or worship Haman the Agagite, it was not enough for him to just kill Mordecai, Haman decided to have all the Jews exterminated and he was able to obtain permission from the king Ahasuerus to do so (Esther 3:11).

Mordecai’s response to the king’s commandment showed that he was devastated by what was going to happen to God’s people (Esther 4:1) and so, he went to Queen Esther to ask for her help. Esther’s initial reaction indicated that she was more concerned about being killed for breaking the law than she was saving her people. Esther sent a message to Mordecai saying, “All the king’s servants, and the people of the king’s provinces, do know, that whosoever, whether man or woman, shall come unto the king into the inner court, who is not called, there is one law of his to put him to death, except such to whom the king shall hold out the golden scepter, that he may live: but I have not been called to come into the king these thirty days” (Esther 4:11). The picture Esther painted of her husband, King Ahasuerus was a tyrant that would kill his own wife simply because she dared approach him without his permission. Esther may have been justified in her opinion of her husband, but it also revealed her attitude toward God. Esther didn’t believe God would deliver her, even though he had delivered Shadrach, Meshach, Abed-nego, and Daniel when they were going to be killed.

Esther’s insecurity may have been due to her awareness that she was out of the will of God. Although Esther didn’t choose to marry Ahasuerus, she was benefitting from her position as queen of Persia. Mordecai’s argument was that it might actually have been God’s will for her to marry Ahasuerus so that she could use her position to intervene with her husband on behalf of her people, the Jews. Mordecai told Esther, “For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knows that whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). In other words, what Mordecai wanted Esther to know was that God would hold her accountable for her intention rather than her action with regards to her obedience to the Persian law. Mordecai believed God would save his people, including Esther, if she chose to put her trust in him instead of her husband, King Ahasuerus.

Before Esther went in to speak to her husband, she asked Mordecai to have all the Jews observe a fast on her behalf. Esther indicated that she and her servants would fast also. Esther most likely viewed this action as a way of purifying herself. Although the fast may have had some effect in the mind of Esther, it is unlikely God paid any more or less attention to what Esther was doing as a result of their fast. What was important to him was that Esther cared enough to risk her own life to stop what was going to happen to God’s people. It says in Esther 5:2, “And so it was, when the king saw Esther the queen standing in the court, that she obtained favour in his sight: and the king held out to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand. So Esther drew near, and touched the top of the scepter.” This illustration of Ahasuerus’ mercy toward Esther was meant to display God’s pleasure with her self-sacrifice. Although it was true that the king could have killed Esther for her disobedience, God protected her because she was willing to risk her life to save his people.

Heart trouble

At the beginning of Jeremiah’s ministry, the city of Jerusalem was active in its worship of the LORD. After king Josiah made a covenant “to walk after the LORD, and to keep his commandments,” a Passover celebration took place that included every citizen of Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 34:31; 35:18). It says in 2 Chronicles 35:18, “And there was no Passover like to that kept in Israel from the days of Samuel the Prophet; neither did all the kings of Israel keep such a Passover as Josiah kept.” And yet, the LORD challenged Jeremiah to try to find one upright man for whose sake he might pardon the entire city. He told Jeremiah, “And though they say, The LORD liveth; surely they swear falsely” (Jeremiah 5:2).

Although the people  of Jerusalem were practicing their religion, God could see their hearts were not in it. Jeremiah said, “O LORD, are not thine eyes upon the truth? thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved, thou hast consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction: they have made their faces harder than a rock; they have refused to return” (Jeremiah 5:3). Jeremiah’s reference to the peoples’ faces being harder than rock was actually a reference to their hard heartedness. The Hebrew word translated harder, chazaq (khaw – zak´) is the same word used to describe Pharaoh’s hardened heart when he refused to let the people of Israel leave Egypt (Exodus 7:13). In reference to Pharaoh, chazaq means “to brace up and strengthen and points to the hardihood with which he set himself to act in defiance against God and closed all the avenues to his heart to those signs and wonders which Moses wrought” (2388).

When the people of Jerusalem celebrated the Passover, they were only going through the motions. Their true motive for participation was a free meal at the expense of king Josiah (2 Chronicles 35:7). God could see the people had become complacent and were no longer concerned about his judgment of them. It was as if they believed God was unaware of what they were doing and could not hold them accountable for their sin. In order to show them the foolishness of their decision to reject his offer of salvation, God intended to let his children experience the fruit of their own labors. He declared through the prophet Jeremiah, “A wonderful and a horrible thing is committed in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means, and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof?” (Jeremiah 5:31).

 

Invincible

God’s deliverance of Jerusalem from Sennacherib king of Assyria left a remnant of Jews in the Promised Land to continue God’s work (Isaiah 37:31). Psalm 76 was written as a testament to God’s miraculous defeat of an army that most, if not all, people at that time thought was invincible. This psalm begins with the statement, “In Judah is God known: his name is great in Israel” (Psalm 76:1).

God’s demonstration of his power was a result of Hezekiah’s prayer (Isaiah 37:16-20) which concluded with the petition, “Now therefore, O LORD our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the LORD, even thou only” (Isaiah 37:20). Hezekiah wanted God to show Sennacherib and the rest of the world that there was a God in heaven because Sennacherib had implied there wasn’t (Isaiah 36:18).

The psalmist referred to Sennacherib and his army as being stouthearted when he said, “The stouthearted are spoiled, they have slept their sleep” (Psalm 76:5). The term stouthearted essentially means that a person has exalted himself above God (47/3820). Sennacherib claimed that no one could deliver a city from his army, not even the God of the Israelites (Isaiah 36:20). The Hebrew word translated spoiled in this verse is shalal, which means to drop or strip, and by implication, to plunder (7997) as one would an enemy that has been overtaken.

Sennacherib’s arrogant attitude was formulated through his empire’s success. For several decades, the Assyrians had been left unchecked. Even the northern kingdom of Israel fell into their hands because no one was willing to ask God for help. The Assyrian kings were known to be tyrants that terrorized their enemies into submission (Assyrian Campaigns against Israel and Judah), and yet, they were still only men who were no match for God. The psalmist declared, “Surely the wrath of men shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain” (Psalm 76:10).

What is often forgotten or ignored about God is his sovereign control of all circumstances. Men may think they are in control, when in actuality, God is working things out according to his will. God allowed the Assyrian empire to expand and to destroy the northern kingdom of Israel, but when Sennacherib approached Jerusalem, God said no and sent him back to Nineveh (Isaiah 37:37). Psalm 76:12 said of the LORD, “He shall cut off the spirit of princes: he is terrible to the kings of the earth.”

Self-sufficiency

God’s relationship with the nation of Israel was based on his personal relationship with Abraham and his descendants. The name Israel was given to Jacob, Abraham’s grandson, when Jacob prevailed in a wrestling match with God. Jacob was told, “Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with man, and hast prevailed” (Genesis 32:28).

Jacob’s power was essentially an ability to overcome or not give up. One interpretation of the name Israel is “he struggles with God” (note on Hosea 12:4). Jacob’s personality could be seen in the nation that bore his name when Israel relied on its own self-sufficiency to deal with the oppressive Assyrian empire. Like Jacob, the nation of Israel thought it could outwit the king of Assyria, but Hosea declared, “the Assyrian shall be his king, because they refused to return” (Hosea 11:5).

Initially, Jacob’s family went to live in Egypt because of a widespread famine that depleted the food supply in Canaan (Genesis 41:57). While they were living in Egypt, the people of the children of Israel increased in numbers and became stronger than the Egyptians, so they were made slaves and were afflicted by Pharaoh. “But the more they afflicted them the more they multiplied and grew” (Exodus 1:12).

Israel’s ability to handle affliction was in a sense what made it both great and stubborn at the same time. Describing Israel’s sin against God, Hosea declared, “Ephraim compasseth me about with lies, and the house of Israel with deceit: but Judah yet ruleth with God, and is faithful with the saints” (Hosea 11:12).

Ephraim, the recipient of Jacob’s blessing, was described as a liar and a cheat in keeping with the character of Jacob, who stole his brother’s birthright (Genesis 25:31) and lied to his father to obtain his blessing (Genesis 27:19). Hosea went on to say, “Ephraim feedeth on the wind, and followeth after the east wind: he daily increaseth lies and desolation; and they do make a covenant with the Assyrians” (Hosea 12:1).

One way to look at Hosea’s condemning remarks was that Israel’s trouble was all Ephraim’s fault. Jacob’s grandson had become just like him and Ephraim was the instigator of his nation’s decline. The cause of the decline was Ephraim’s self-sufficiency and pride. Hosea stated, “And Ephraim said, Yet I am become rich, I have found me out substance: in all my labours they shall find none iniquity in me that were sin” (Hosea 12:8).

Be quiet

When my kids were little, behavior was a concern for me if I took them out in public. Because they were close in ages, I had my hands full even though there were only three of them. It was difficult for me to accomplish anything and grocery shopping was a major ordeal. Eventually, they learned through experience that good behavior usually resulted in some kind of reward and bad behavior led to punishment.

In Psalm 31, David said, “Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother” (Psalm 131.2). The word translated behaved, shâvâh (shaw – vaw´) figuratively means to resemble, and by implication to adjust, for example to be suitable for the situation or to compose oneself. (7737).

David was likening himself to a little child in order to express an attitude of submission, of a child that had been trained by a loving parent. David’s relationship with the LORD had matured to the point where he wanted to be like his heavenly Father, to show love and compassion to others as it had been shown to him.

David went on to say, “My soul is even as a weaned child. Let Israel hope in the LORD from henceforth and for ever” (Psalm 131:2-3). A transition was taking placed in the kingdom that caused David to focus on worship rather than warfare. The courage and determination David had shown on the battlefield was no longer necessary. It was time for David to behave like a man of God rather than king of Israel.

The Hebrew word translated hope, yâchal (yaw – chal´) has the connotation of being still, to sit quietly and wait for something to happen (3176). Near the end of David’s life, he realized that the Messiah was Israel’s only hope for survival. As much as David wanted to believe that he could permanently establish God’s kingdom on earth, he knew that peace was extremely difficult to maintain. Like rambunctious children, the Israelites were inclined to fight with their neighbors and could not focus on God for an extended period of time.

David admitted that he did not completely understand the bigger picture when he said, “Neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me” (Psalm 131:1). His humble attitude was a result of God’s discipline and his willingness to let go of the outcome a sign that David had reached the point where he understood that God was in control of Israel’s destiny. David’s main focus was on obedience and an anticipation of seeing his Savior face to face.

An attitude of happiness

During the time when Lucifer was the worship leader of heaven, he probably discovered the power music has to affect moods. I think one of the ways he gets us to do what he wants us to is to get us in a bad mood. Some people seem to always be in a bad mood, especially older people that suffer from chronic pain and have disabilities.

Music can not only affect our moods, it can reinforce or develop attitudes that are responsible for our behavior patterns. That is why worship through music is so important to the health of our relationship with God.

In addition to making sacrifices in the tabernacle of God, the Levites were designated musicians that performed specific songs of worship. Initially, the musicians were like strolling minstrels that were constantly moving while they played instruments and sang. After the ark of the covenant came to rest in a permanent location, the musicians waited or stood still (5975) and ministered based on their right or privilege to enter into the presence of God (1 Chronicles 6:31-32).

There is an element of transformation that occurs during the worship of God. In a sense, we are able to transcend circumstances. We connect with God in a spiritual realm that we typically do not have access to, similar to the holy of holies in the tabernacle of God. Satan does everything he can to keep us out of this realm because he knows that it is where an attitude of happiness begins to enter our hearts.

It’s all about attitude

David is unique among the individuals whose lives are portrayed in the Bible because through his psalms he revealed the inner workings of his heart. In the same way that a surgeon is able to determine the condition of a heart through open heart surgery, we are able to see David’s motives, feelings, affections, and desires in his psalms and therefore, able to determine his attitude toward God.

Psalms 123 – 125 focus on three key aspects of David’s attitude toward God: 1) He is David’s superior, 2) He is on David’s side, and 3) He will always keep David safe. David lived a dangerous life. He was given the privilege of being king of Israel, but along with the privilege came a tremendous amount of responsibility and a life filled with trials and tribulations. It is no wonder David felt the need to pour his heart out and put to music the feelings that often overwhelmed him.

If you think about David’s attitude as his secret to success, then each of these three psalms, 123 – 125 provides insight into how you can develop the same successful attitude. Everyone has adversity in their lives and if you are a Believer, you will have trials and tribulations to get through. The attitude you develop toward God is completely within your control. Whether you have a good attitude or bad attitude depends on the perspective you take in viewing your situation.

More people than you might imagine have the attitude that God is their inferior. They think they can tell God what to do and their prayers are his to do list. David’s prayers were consistent with God’s character and did not dictate the how, only the what David was asking for. Included in David’s petitions were reasons or justification for the request and reverence toward the one he was addressing.

Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy upon us: for we are exceedingly filled with contempt. Our soul is exceedingly filled with the scorning of those that are at ease, and with the contempt of the proud. (Psalm 123:3-4)

In every battle there are at least two adversaries, and therefore, two sides that God can take in providing assistance. Many people go through life with the attitude that God is against them. They think every time they turn around, God is putting another stumbling block in their pathway, continually tripping them up, and making sure they get nowhere in life. David not only believed God was on his side, but every time he escaped from his enemy, he gave God credit for providing the escape route. David said in Psalm 124, “The snare is broken, and we are escaped. Our help is in the name of the LORD, Who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 124:7-8).

When tragedy strikes, the easiest thing to do is blame God. Probably the most common question asked of him is, where were you…? David states in Psalm 125, “As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the LORD is round about his people from henceforth even for ever” (Psalm 125:2). David used the example of the mountains around Jerusalem to describe God’s protection because of the permanence of the natural structure. It is not God who moves, but us when separation occurs. Like a child that wanders off from his parent at the shopping mall, it is possible to be separated from our father, but David knew that it was he that did the wandering, not God.