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Your weekly installment of things we’ve been reading (and watching) around the web.

Articles of the Week

Four Things the “Hate Psalms” Teach Us, Wendy Stringer. The Psalms are usually one of people’s favorite books of the Bible. And it’s no surprise why: Israel’s ancient songbook contains the most profound and moving poetry ever written. But it’s not all rosy: there are also the so-called “imprecatory” psalms, those unsavory psalms that invoke God’s wrath and revel in his violence. Feel like skipping them? Stringer urges us not to.

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I struggled for years to find assurance of salvation. As I’ve mentioned in Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart, my lack of assurance got to be pretty absurd. I can laugh about it now, but it was humiliating and gut-wrenching at the time. I prayed to receive Jesus literally hundreds (perhaps thousands) of times. I got baptized—not once, not twice, but four different times. The worst part about it was that I thought I was the only one.

Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart only exists because, as it turns out, I wasn’t alone. “Lack of assurance” is endemic among evangelicals today. But Christians who struggle with assurance can take some small comfort in the fact that we aren’t the first. The entire book of 1 John, for instance, is written to assure believers that they have eternal life (1 John 5:13). And tucked into the more gory stories of the book of Judges is a perfect example of the paradox of assurance.

Our old friend Gideon shows us two truths about assurance:

1. God patiently deals with faltering faith.

If you read through Judges, you’ll see God give Gideon assurance after assurance. Each time God reassures Gideon, it does the trick for a little while…but only a little. Gideon’s assurance account is constantly low and in need of funds.

But here’s the beautiful part of it: God keeps reassuring Gideon.

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Opponents of Christianity often point out how bloody the Old Testament is. There’s no getting around it: it is. (For that matter, the New Testament isn’t as serene as most people assume.) Israel often participated in and celebrated the victory of God over other nations, victory that usually meant military conquest. As Deborah says, “So may all your enemies perish, Lord! But may all who love you be like the sun when it rises in its strength” (Judges 5:31). Israel savored the stories of God’s deliverance—even God’s vengeance—like a fine wine, sip by sip.

Celebrating God’s vengeance seems out of place to most modern readers. In my experience, stories like this draw out two different objections.

Objection 1: We don’t always see justice served.

Like the end of many action movies today, the violent conclusion to Old Testament stories were meant to illustrate just retribution. The “bad guys” get what’s coming to them, and all the wrongs are righted.

But that’s not the experience of most people. We certainly long for God to right every wrong, but there are simply too many stories out there without happy endings. Not every rapist or murderer is brought to justice. The corrupt seem to frequently get off scot free, while the innocent suffer.

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