CTT | Cattle on a Thousand Hills

Have you ever been listening to a sermon about tithing or fundraising or about our need to proclaim and declare prosperity because we serve a God who owns the “cattle on a thousand hills”? What does that phrase mean? Where does it come from? How does it relate to me? Well, today, we’ll take a look at this portion of a verse and then we’ll examine its context. We’ll find Biblical answers to all of these questions, and I’ll try to address some of its abuses.

The partial quote comes from the second half of Psalm 50:10.

Psalm 50:10 (ESV)  For every beast of the forest is mine,
the cattle on a thousand hills.

Interesting verse, but this isn’t a proverb, comes from a Psalm. So let’s read the Psalm and confirm who is speaking to whom, and what the topic of this conversation is.

Psalm 50 (ESV) | God Himself Is Judge

A Psalm of Asaph.
50 The Mighty One, God the Lord,
speaks and summons the earth
from the rising of the sun to its setting.
2 Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty,
God shines forth.
3 Our God comes; he does not keep silence;
before him is a devouring fire,
around him a mighty tempest.
4 He calls to the heavens above
and to the earth, that he may judge his people:

Okay, so far we have the LORD God who who speaks and summons the earth that He may judge His people. Let’s continue to see what He is saying.

5 “Gather to me my faithful ones,
who made a covenant with me by sacrifice!”
6 The heavens declare his righteousness,
for God himself is judge! Selah
7 “Hear, O my people, and I will speak;
O Israel, I will testify against you.
I am God, your God.
8 Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you;
your burnt offerings are continually before me.
9 I will not accept a bull from your house
or goats from your folds.
10 For every beast of the forest is mine,
the cattle on a thousand hills.
11 I know all the birds of the hills,
and all that moves in the field is mine.

Interesting. The phrase we are examining today finds itself among several references to the fact that God is in-fact God, and that everything belongs to Him already. Who is God speaking to? Those who made a covenant with God by sacrifice, those under the Mosaic covenant. God declares that He will testify against Israel, for He is their God. God does not rebuke them for their sacrifices, their burnt offerings are continually before him, but notice he shifts immediately by saing He will not accept a bull from the house of Israel, nor goats from her fields. He owns every beast of the forest, all the birds of the hills and all that moves in the field. This reference to “a thousand hills” isn’t to be taken as a literal 1,000 hills, as if there could be cattle on the 1001st hill that didn’t belog to God, God is saying He owns them all. But where is this going? Is this headed toward a health, wealth, and prosperity teaching?

12 “If I were hungry, I would not tell you,
for the world and its fullness are mine.
13 Do I eat the flesh of bulls
or drink the blood of goats?

Israel was not the only nation whose worship included animal sacrifice, they were just the only nation who worshiped the LORD God. The pagans (consider the Egpytian gods, and later the Greek and Roman gods) sacrificed to idols and false gods, for their gods had to be fed, served, nourished, and appeased. Here, God is reminding Israel that He did not require these blood sacrifices for His sake, and even if He could hunger, He wouldn’t look to us for His sustinence. God doesn’t need your permission nor your cooperation, the world an everything in it belongs to Him. The notion that God has need of us in any way is a purely pagan one. The sacrifices of the Mosaic Covenant are part of their current covenant, but more importantly they point ahead to the Last Sacrifice of the Lamb of God, Christ, the Son of the Living God.

14 Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and perform your vows to the Most High,
15 and call upon me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”

What does it mean to offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving? It first requires faith that it is God who has provided for your needs, that it is God who has saved you. For this definition I’m borrowing heavily from Hebrews 11:4-6. Both Cain and Abel brought sacrifices, but Abel found favor in the eyes of the LORD by faith. But now we get to the judgment against the people. Remember, their observance of the animal sacrifices under the Law isn’t why God is pronouncing judgment on Israel, so let’s look at what has been missing.

16 But to the wicked God says:
What right have you to recite my statutes
    or take my covenant on your lips?
17 For you hate discipline,
and you cast my words behind you.
18 If you see a thief, you are pleased with him,
and you keep company with adulterers.
19 “You give your mouth free rein for evil,
and your tongue frames deceit.
20 You sit and speak against your brother;
you slander your own mother’s son.
21 These things you have done, and I have been silent;
you thought that I was one like yourself.
But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you.
22 “Mark this, then, you who forget God,
lest I tear you apart, and there be none to deliver!
23 The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me;
    to one who orders his way rightly
    I will show the salvation of God!

Verse 16 hits Israel of the day, and today’s prosperity false-teachers, right between the eyes. You don’t get to demand that God keep His promises “according to the Law” in response to your faithless attempts at keeping the Law. God plainly lists how Israel falls short of the Law. Sure they keep the outward works of the sacrifices, but the lack faith, therefore their gestures are not pleasing to God. Notice how it’s beeing worded, you cast My Words behind youyou who forget God.  A good cross-reference for this Psalm can be found in Isaiah 1 where, again, God is calling out Judah for her lack of faith despite the multitude of sacrifices. Without faith, it is impossible to please God.

This thanksgiving is a fruit of faith in God’s Word, for apart from faith in God’s Word we do not give thanks to God. As we examine our lives according to the 10 Commandments, we see that we fall woefully short of these today. As we examine the sins pointed out in the Psalm above, we see that we fall in that very same category. We sin. We are not under the Mosaic covenant, so where does that leave us? We look to the cross of Jesus Christ, and we believe in His finished work on the cross. We offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving to God for the body and blood of His son, Jesus Christ, received by Grace through faith.

So how does this Psalm 50 reference apply to us? We don’t feed God by our sacrifices, He feeds us by His Word. This passage in no way points to our temporal prosperity.

Conclusion

Whenever someone pulls out the description of God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills, know that the Psalmist is declaring God to be God of all things, the whole earth, all of creation and all that is in it. If the invoking of this description of God isn’t focusing on giving thanks to God for our salvation, be careful… it’s probably being lifted out of its context. This isn’t a “do more good works” text. God isn’t rebuking Israel for their lack of good works; rather, for their lack of faith.

Romans 16:24-27 (ESV)

Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

DiM | “Holy Spirit” by Francesca Battistelli

Today is “Discernment in Music” (DiM) day here at Faithful Stewardship (2 Corinthians 10:4-6 (ESV)).

May 05, 2015. Today we’ll be taking a look at “Holy Spirit” by Francesca Battistelli which currently sits at #18 at 20theCountdownMagazine.

We’ll continue using this top 20 song list until I find a better list. Your feedback in this would be greatly appreciated.

This song is emotionally powerful and beautifully sung. It comes to us through Francesca Battistelli, but is in-fact written by the folks at Jesus Culture, Bryan & Katie Torwalt. They are the worship band/team at Bethel Redding, CA, where Bill Johnson holds court. Bill Johnson is a false teacher and his Bethel is a mystical cult. One aspect of their false teaching is that of “presence” theology. The idea that the point of worship is to invite the Holy Spirit of God into their worship in such a way that He will manifest Himself, most often they allude to the Glory Cloud as in the Tabernacle in the wilderness. Bethel claims a lot of manifestations, gold dust, the glory cloud, even claiming that God the Holy Spirit looks like the blue genie in Disney’s Aladdin. This theology is the genesis of today’s song.  We will review it, and do our best to correct the false theology that sits under the hood.

Official (Audio) Music Video

Behind the Song

Lyrics (via KLOVE)

Holy Spirit
Francesca Battistelli

There’s nothing worth more
That could ever come close
No thing can compare
You’re our living hope
Your presence, Lord

I’ve tasted and seen
Of the sweetest of loves
Where my heart becomes free
And my shame is undone
Your presence, Lord

CHORUS
Holy Spirit, You are welcome here
Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere
Your glory, God, is what our hearts long for
To be overcome by Your presence, Lord

There’s nothing worth more
That could ever come close
No thing can compare
You’re our living hope
Your presence, Lord

I’ve tasted and seen
Of the sweetest of loves
Where my heart becomes free
And my shame is undone
Your presence, Lord

CHORUS

Let us become more aware of Your presence
Let us experience the glory of Your goodness

CHORUS

Publishing: © 2011 Bryan & Katie Torwalt (ASCAP) (All rights adm. by Jesus Culture Music) Produced by Ian Eskelin
Writer(s): Brian & Katie Torwalt

Discussion

Okay, so here we have a “worship song” that seeks to entreat the Spirit of God to come into the room/sanctuary/life and grant those singing an experience of His goodness. There are a couple of problems with that, the first is that as Christians we have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us by faith. The second problem is that the worship seems conditional upon having an emotional experience of the presence of God the Holy Spirit. Emotions are fickle, fleshly, and easily manipulated.

Hebrews 11:1-3 (ESV) | By Faith

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

Faith is not an emotion, nor is it grown by emotion. Read through the whole of Hebrews 11, search out each referent and see how faith sustained them despite circumstance or emotion. Their faith is in who God is, not what they felt, and that faith was accredited to them as righteousness.

Taste and See

Mystics tend to latch onto these types of phrases to hyper-inflate empirical (experiential) spiritual knowledge. The idea that one can “try” or “taste” the Gospel and it will be so good to them that they’ll be won over and saved. This “taste and see” comes from Psalm 34. I’ll leave it to you to read Psalm 34 in its entirety in your personal time. The Apostle Peter makes reference to this Psalm, so lets begin there.

1 Peter 2:1-12 (ESV) | A Living Stone and a Holy People

So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is goodAs you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture:

“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,
    a cornerstone chosen and precious,
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,

“The stone that the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone,”

and

“A stone of stumbling,
    and a rock of offense.”

They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

To what is Peter referring, an emotional experience or forgiveness by faith? Notice he mentioned it as a past-tense experience, If indeed you have tasted, Peter is talking about salvation. Does Peter encourage his audience to seek their own experiences like what he and his fellow Apostles experienced? Peter witnessed Jesus transfigured into His Glory, and He heard the voice of God the Father audibly. What does Peter say about such experiences?

2 Peter 1:16-21 (ESV) | Christ’s Glory and the Prophetic Word

16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Rather than push others to having their own supernatural experience, Peter points to Scripture as prophetic and more fully confirmed than even his experience of witnessing the transfiguration of Jesus Christ. Peter points them to the Word. Peter charges them to walk by faith. Right after this section, Peter moves on into strong warning against false teaching.

We Have the Holy Spirit

I’d like to revisit the problem of this song presenting a notion that we need to somehow invite the Holy Spirit to fill us again, and again, and again, (particularly during Sunday Morning Worship). Is that what is taught in Scripture? Quite the opposite, in fact. The Holy Spirit doesn’t leave us waiting for us to re-invite Him if we “worship Him correctly”.  Are there times He moves upon/within His people in a special manner? Yes, but that’s up to Him, by His Grace not by any of our works. Let’s go to Paul’s rebuke to the Corinthians to see this play out.

1 Corinthians 6:12-20 (ESV) | Flee Sexual Immorality

12 “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. 13 “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never!16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

You are not your own, if indeed you have been bought by the Blood of Jesus Christ. If by faith you have been saved, then the Holy Spirit is within you, His temple. Paul is reminding them that they are the temples of the Holy Spirit; therefore, they are not to present their bodies for sexual immorality, because of the offense to the Holy Spirit who indwells them by the Promise of Jesus Christ. This is NOT something that comes and goes, dear Christian! When we sin, we must repent and be forgiven of sin by faith. Sexual Immorality is a sin against God and our bodies and against the Holy Spirit who indwells us. Serious, serious, stuff. But know that for all who have believed in Christ, who have called upon His name by Grace through faith have been adopted as sons of God, sealed by His Spirit until the Day of the upward Call in Christ Jesus.

Conclusion

As pretty and poetic this song seems, I cannot endorse it. The song is a request for an emotional experience, I cannot even call it a “worship song”. Worship God for who He is and what He has done. Take great care not to force some emotional/spiritual experience as a replacement for worshiping Him. There is a huge difference between praying to God for Him to meet a need and asking for a sign (be it emotional or spiritual).

Luke 11:27-30 (ESV) 27 As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” 28 But he said, Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” 29 When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, “This generation is an evil generation. It seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. 30 For as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of Man be to this generation.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ, He who fulfilled the Law completely and offered Himself as the propitiation of God’s Wrath against sin, so that by faith in Him we might be made the righteousness of God, is all we will ever need. God’s Spirit indwells all who are His by faith in the Promise of salvation. There will be times when you “feel it”, but He is there even when you don’t “feel it”… this isn’t about feelings, it’s about faith. He is our Hope. Rest in Him by Faith.

Amen. In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

DiM | “The Maker” by Chris August

Today is “Discernment in Music” (DiM) day here at Faithful Stewardship (2 Corinthians 10:4-6 (ESV)).

April 28, 2015. Today we’ll be taking a look at “The Maker” by Chris August which currently sits at #17 at 20theCountdownMagazine.

We’ll continue using this top 20 song list until I find a better list. Your feedback in this would be greatly appreciated.

This is an emotionally centered song of encouragement with a generally Christian theme, though not explicit. It is theologically shallow, save for one solid line in the bridge. It falls squarely into the category of “well, that’s a pleasant song”. Let’s look at the song and then look at some related passages of Scripture to help us ground our thoughts in the Word whenever this song plays on the radio.

Official Music Video

Lyrics (via KLOVE)

The Maker by Chris August

I see You in the sunrise
I see You in the rain
I see You in the laughter
I feel You through the pain

Everything that You have made is beautiful
Oh, my God, I can’t believe my eyes
But in all of this to think that You would think of me
Makes my heart come alive

CHORUS
Your love is like a mighty fire deep inside my bones
I feel like I could climb a thousand mountains all at once
And I never have to wonder if somebody cares for me
I love the Maker
And the Maker loves me

I see You, You are creation
I see the grandness of Your majesty
The universe is singing all Your glory
I can’t believe You live inside of me

Everything that You have made is beautiful
Oh, my God, I can’t believe my eyes
But in all of this to think that You would think of me
Makes my heart come alive

CHORUS

More than just some words upon a page
You’ve shown me in a million ways
But there is one that stands above them all
Hands of creation on a cross

CHORUS

Publishing: © 2015 Word Music, LLC (ASCAP) / Wondrous Made Songs a div. of Wondrous Worship & Llano Music, LLC (BMI) (Adm. by Music Services) Produced by Ed Cash
Writer(s): Chris August / Ed Cash

Discussion

The song doesn’t press beyond the emotional level of “wow, God’s Creation is awesome and He loves me!” Is that bad? Well, if you are looking for real encouragement it falls short, but if you’re just looking for a pleasant song that acknowledges God as the Creator then it’s fine. I’d like to really give this song some solid points, though, for the bridge. Were it not for the bridge making a clear reference to the Cross, my overall opinion of the song would have been panentheism. I didn’t catch the line when I was just listening to the song on the radio or when I was reviewing the music video, but it is clearly in the lyric and once I started looking for it I found it in the video, so it’s there. It really saved the song in my opinion. I read his biography on TCM.com, and recognized that he really is just a musician trying to make a living playing music but also wanting to make “more Christian songs”. I think we should expect more of church worship leaders, but for “good, clean entertainment” I think he fits the bill, and hope the best for his career. Truly, I’d like to see evidence of a more grounded walk with Christ in his music with a little less of the artistic appeal to emotional inspiration we see in secular music. The world is lost, unbelievers who reject the God of Creation and are left to empty words of affirmation for their “inspirational music”. We have Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life. We have the Truth of the Gospel preserved by the Holy Spirit in the Scriptures. That’s real, that’s deeper than any fleeting emotion or empty praise of men.

Psalm 95  (ESV) | Let Us Sing Songs of Praise
1 Oh come, let us sing to the Lord;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
2 Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
3 For the Lord is a great God,
and a great King above all gods.
4 In his hand are the depths of the earth;
the heights of the mountains are his also.
5 The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.
6 Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
 let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
7 For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand.
Today, if you hear his voice,
8     do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,
9 when your fathers put me to the test
and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.
10 For forty years I loathed that generation
and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart,
and they have not known my ways.”
11 Therefore I swore in my wrath,
“They shall not enter my rest.”

Compare the overall focus of Psalm 95 to today’s song and see how they compare and contrast.

The strong point of this song is that it connected “the Maker” to Jesus’ Death on the Cross. Let’s flesh that out a bit more.

John 1:1-18 (ESV) | The Word Became Flesh
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life,and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him.8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

Indeed, Jesus is our Creator. He loves us enough to lay down His life in payment for our sin. Repent, therefore, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.

John 3:16-18 (ESV) | For God So Loved the World
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

Amen. In Christ Jesus,
Jorge