Sunday, July 22, 2018

Psalm 34

Here we have another magnificent Song that teaches us one of the most critical aspects of life for human beings: what it means to fear the Lord.  And the Song is given in such a way as to remind us that the God-fearing life is the Christ-like life!  Like Psalm 25, this Psalm is an alphabetical acrostic, each verse beginning with a different succeeding letter from the Hebrew alphabet.

The title, if it is true (remember, these were added later and are likely accurate but are not part of the inspired text) gives an interesting context which you can read about in 1 Samuel 21:10-15.  “Abimelech” may have been a title for Philistine kings as far back as the days of Abraham and Isaac.  In David’s situation the name of the king was Achish.  And while the story was a bit humorous in the way God delivered David, it nevertheless was an experience that evoked worship from David and which he saw as an opportunity for all God’s people to consider.  So consider Psalm 34.

vThe call to praise, v1-3.
Consider the 5 terms David uses for praise.  It is a reminder of the many ways there are for us to glorify God.
**Bless: to bend the knee before God, as one would bow before a King when entering the throne room.
**Praise: to honor someone by the singing of a hymn, words that recount that persons greatness.
**Boast: to shine a light so as to make obvious the perfections of the one being honored.
**Magnify: to twist together several strands to make a powerful chord; thus to recount the many reasons One is to be honored.
**Exalt: to honor by lifting up where the honored One and His accomplishments can be seen by all.

vThe reason for praise, v4-7.
As noted there is a historical situation referred to in the title to the Psalm.  If that is the case, it is a story early in David’s life as he began the period where he was on the run from King Saul.  What is interesting is that David, standing before the Philistine King had fears (v4).  Prior to this David had killed the giant and killed 200 Philistines singlehandedly as a dowry for his marriage to Saul’s daughter Michal.  But now he was on the run.  Perhaps he had never really felt vulnerable in this way.  Note that fear in v4 (used only one other time in this way in Isa. 66:4 where God gives idolators over to the things they fear) is not the same term as the fear of God in v7 (reverencing fear).

vThe call to faith, v8-10
David understands that what he experienced of God’s deliverance is something that the rest of God’s people need to learn.  So he calls them to trust in God as he did.  If they do they will have no “lack”.  Two different words help us to understand that they will not be lacking in the sense of being in need (v9) nor will they lack what they need to do what needs to be done (v10).

vThe call to fear God (specifics), v11-16
David now teaches us what it means to “fear the Lord.”  He gives specific applications that are repeated by Peter for believers in 1 Peter 3:10-12.  When one fears God it shows up in how they live their lives.  This helps us in understanding that fearing God is not running scared of God.  It is a reverence that causes us to live righteously.  Thus David concludes in the following verses.

vThe call to fear God (general), v17-18
The God-fearing life lives in the practical ways of v11-16 because it is humbled before God.  Go back to the various forms of worship in v1-3 and you see the reason one cries out to God when he is in difficulty.  It comes from a “broken heart” and “contrite spirit” (Psalm 51:17; Isa. 57:15).  To be courageous like David can lead others to brand us as amazing and brave people.  But even when you read the stories of David such as the killing of Goliath you see that he was one who feared God.  The fear of man that caused the rest of Israel’s armies to cower in fear did not rule in David’s heart.  But remember too that the next time we hear David speak of being broken is in his confession of sin, following a time when he did not fear God! 

vThe Messianic application, v19-22
Understanding David’s later struggle with brokenness brings us to the closing paragraph where our thoughts are lifted to the One and Only One who was righteous in all of life.  While David may not have understood the Messianic connection here, we do.  John’s gospel quotes v20 in speaking of Christ who when the soldiers put the spear in His side it kept Him from the normal treatment of those who were crucified in having their legs broken so as to hasten their death (John 19:33-36).  

In v19 deliverance (also in v4) means “to be torn away, snatched away from” trouble.  In the case of David it was God leading him to feign madness.  In the case of David’s greater Son Messiah it was through resurrection.  May we note that God’s ways of deliverance are many and various.  There will be a time when God will deliver the Church by a snatching away (literal translation of the term in 1 Thess. 4:17), delivering them from wrath (1 Thess. 1:10).

As you read these closing verses and think of Jesus Christ remember that He too had a broken heart and contrite spirit, which is made clear in His praying in Gethsemane (Matt. 26:36-46).  Jesus crossed the Kidron to the Mount of Olives to pray, “not My will but Thine be done.”  Later in David’s life he too would cross the Kidron in the time of Absalom’s rebellion, at a time when his heart was broken but when he yielded himself to God for deliverance (2 Sam. 16:5-14).

And note that the One with the broken heart did not suffer any broken bones!  When we come to Christ we have absolute confidence that even though we die, yet we shall live (John 11:25-27).  And though Jesus was condemned by men, yet He was not condemned by His Father.  Likewise we know that to be in Christ is to be totally free of condemnation (Rom. 8:1,34).  Who is he who condemns?  It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.  Now there is an abundance of reason to bless, praise, boast in, magnify and exalt our Lord Jesus Christ!!!

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Psalm 22

When we read this Psalm we have no trouble connecting it with the death of our Lord Jesus on the cross of Calvary.  Psalm 22 is a Psalm of David.  He wrote by the inspiration of God through the work of the Holy Spirit.  David may have thought he was writing of his own trials and tribulations but if he did think that it was only in some symbolic ways that he referred to himself.  For the great Son of David, the One who will rule forever on David’s throne, these words are literal.  And hundreds of years before it was invented as a cruel form of execution, David described Jesus’ crucifixion.  Note some of the many connections.

Psa. 22
The Gospels
1: My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?
Mt. 27:46
6-8: the ridicule; He trusted in the LORD; let Him rescue Him
Mt. 27:39-44
10: From My mother’s womb You have been My God
Lk. 1:35
14: a perfect description of someone being crucified

15: the extreme thirst involved in crucifixion
Jn. 19:28
16: They pierced My hands and My feet
Mt. 27:35
17: They look and stare at Me
Lk. 23:27,35
18: They divide My garments … for My clothing they cast lots
Mt. 27:35
 Again, David, by the Holy Spirit, is describing something in great detail that he has never seen.  And he certainly could not have known what was meant in v21 when the Messiah says, You have answered Me.  The answer of the Father was the resurrection and then all the other exaltations involved in giving the Messiah a name above all names.  It is through the fulfillment of this prophecy, the cross of Christ, that the descendents of Jacob will glorify God (v23) and all the families of the nations shall worship before Him (v27).
Now let us not fail to see the end of the Psalm.  A posterity shall serve Him.  Both for Israel and for the nations to worship the Lord they must hear of the event described in Psalm 22.  Someone must declare His righteousness to these future generations that He has done this.  Today the gospel is going out to the nations more and more; this is the work of Christ through His Body, the Church.  In the future Israel will be saved when they hear the righteousness of God declared through faithful witnesses. 
Paul was doing this when he said: For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:16-17).
Psalm 22 gives an amazingly detailed picture of the cross of Christ as well as the opening up of salvation to all who believe after the resurrection of Christ.  Apart from the suffering of the Savior there is nothing to declare.  Again we see something of the Father’s grace and mercy in the cross of His Son.  Praise Him!

Friday, July 20, 2018

I Cor. 10:9; Num. 21:4-9; John 3:14-15

Jesus has poured out His soul to His Father.  Abba, Father, all things are possible for You.  Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will (Mk. 14:36).  Jesus knew the Father’s will.  You may ask why?  Why did the Father knowingly send His only begotten Son into the world to suffer?  Jesus used this story from the OT to describe the reason for His death.

Israel had wandered forty years because of their refusal to trust God and enter the Land.  Now they were again moving to a place where they would cross the Jordan and enter Canaan.  While it was hard for Israel, God had taken care of their daily needs.  They never lacked.  Yet we read the soul of the people became very discouraged (impatient) on the way.  The collective, discouraged soul of the nation detested the worthless bread, the manna, God was giving them.

Surely, if you have read this story, you know this is not the first time the people grumbled about their lot in life.  They had forgotten how painful Egypt really was and lamented that they had not stayed.  And they had also forgotten how, in every time of need, God had provided for them along the way. 
The result was that the LORD sent another plague, this one involving fiery serpents, and many people began to die.  If you find this a bit harsh you need to think again.  The whole point of this situation where a nation was born in the desert of Sinai was that God would provide for them abundantly and they would love, trust and obey Him.  Further, the rough situation they are in is of their own making.  God tested them and they grumbled and rebuked God for His care of them.  They tested God, as Paul notes (1 Cor. 10:9), and God judged them.

What is strange is not the harsh judgment.  What is strange is the gracious provision.  When the people confessed their sin God gave the easiest solution to the problem.  Make a bronze snake (bronze symbolizes judgment), put it on a pole where it can be seen, and tell the people to simply look at the pole.  Everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.  And it worked!
Moses does not explain this; but Jesus gives us all the explanation we need.  He must be lifted up like that bronze snake.  Like the bronze snake Jesus was taking judgment that deserved to be poured out on mankind.  

He didn’t say look at Me; He said whoever believes in Me shall not perish but have eternal life.  But the two terms are the same.  In the desert Israel had to do something very simple, something they did not fully understand, something that meant no longer blaming God for their problem but rather accepting God’s grace for a problem they brought on themselves.  That is exactly what it means to believe in Jesus.  And it tells us why it was the will of the Father that Jesus suffer for us.  As He said, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.  Yes, it is that easy.  Confessing sin we are called to simply look away from all other trusts and put our confidence in One, the One bearing our sin and judgment on the cross.