As an elementary school teacher one the hardest things for me during the school year is for me to take the time to read and write. I am usually at work for 9 hours or more a day, and typically I do not get a break during the day (free planning is a dream). By the time I get home I am typically so mentally exhausted that I have little mental energy to read anything with depth. Mostly I read light stuff to relax.
Since I am on summer vacation right now, I have been reading a devotional by John Calvin. The book is a collection of writings he did about the Psalms. Some of Calvin’s best work is his commentary on the Psalms. The tricky thing about reading this book is it takes some reflection in order to make the connections to real life. While they are practical, the wording can be difficult to grasp at times. Even though it is a stretch to read, it has still been very enlightening.
The one that caught my eye this morning was the entry dated July 9, and it was based on Psalms 81:11-12. It says,
“But my people did not listen to my voice; Israel would not submit to me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts, to follow their own counsels. (ESV)
It’s a pretty depressing verse. The Psalm starts off by talking about the faithfulness of God. How He delivered the people when they were suffering, and how He cared for them. The problem is they did not listen. They would not follow Him, and they wanted they did what they wanted too. Verse 12 is actually God’s way of judging them. He “gave them over to their stubborn hearts.” They had no interest in following Him, so He let them go. Since they would not listen to the Lord’s council, they could only follow their own.
Truth is we cannot do the right thing without God leading. All throughout the Bible it talks about how we have a sinful nature. The only thing keeping humanity from tearing itself apart is the Holy Spirit, but there comes a point when God has decided He is done trying to work with people. You see it happen often in the Old Testament. The book of Judges is best known for the cycle that is seen throughout the book. People would sin, and they would be taken over. People would repent and cry out to God. Then God would save them, and then go back to step one.
God treats us as individuals today the same way. When we crave our desires so much, and decide that we know better than Him, then He lets us go, but He never forgets us. Even when times are their darkest; God’s light shines the brightest. There are so many examples in Scripture of someone who lost their way, and God welcomed them back. Simon Peter when he cussed out people because they said he was with Jesus, and Jesus took him back. Samson for all of the sin he committed in his life is considered to be one of the faithful in the book of Hebrews. He didn’t repent until right before he died. God treated the Israelites the same way. If you read further in Psalm 81, you will see that God never forgets them. It says in verse 13 that if they listen and follow Him, He will protect them and provide for them.
While the devotional I am reading doesn’t focus the repentance portion just yet, Calvin does add this thought at the end.
“Further, as the passage teaches us, there is no plague deadlier than for men to be left to the guidance of their own counsels, the only thing which remains for us to do is to renounce the dictates of carnal wisdom, and to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit.”
Repentance is what bring us back to Him, and in order to enjoy that sweet counsel from the Holy Spirit we have to turn our hearts to Him. What does that look like? For some it’s giving up a habit that could eventually destroy us and the relationships around us. It could mean making church a priority, or joining a small group. For you it could be turning to Jesus for the first time, trusting Him as Lord and Savior. The best way to find out where you need to change is to simply as God, and He will reveal it to you.
And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. – Romans 8:2 (NLT)