God’s Grace & Suffering, part 1

Peter starts to close this epistle by beginning a final major emphasis he wants to impress on his readers: suffering. This section will carry the reader nearly to end of the book (3.8-5.11). Interwoven in this section on suffering is how God’s grace relates to it. These are Christian people who are suffering for doing good on Christ’s behalf, yet they are suffering. Peter puts them (and us) in mind of God’s grace when we are suffering.

Suffering for Doing Good (3.8-17)

Christians are blessed if they suffer for doing good & continue to live graciously toward all.

8Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.

Finally, all of you: Some read finally as a summation of the material covered beginning in 2.11. Peter is summarizing and proceeding forward in to new material. All of you indicates this is address to whole Christian community. Peter uses five (5) adjectives to describe the church…

“All of you” who claim to be Christian, who claim Christ’s name for yourself. Thus, every Christian has an obligation to cultivate obedience in all five of these areas put forward. Obedience in each of the areas marked out by Peter here will promote peace in the local congregation and smooth relationships among church members. Though he does not repeat the word, the proper expression of each of these characteristics requires submission – the theme Peter has expounded on as primary for Christians (2.13, 17; 3.1). Unwillingness to submit ourselves to one another will result in failure to manifest each of these characteristics.

Have unity of mind: Gk homophrones (unique in NT). Lit. “same-minded.” Like minded. This is a characteristic which would bring “harmony” (NIV) to the church & family.

Sympathy: Gk sumpatheis. (unique in NT) This is feeling with others in their joy, sorrow, & needs.

Brotherly love: Gk philadelphoi. (unique in NT) Brother-lovers, i.e. love for fellow Christians.

A tender heart: Gk eusplagchnoi. Cf. Ephesians 4.32. The distress & affliction of others should touch a Christian’s heart. As is sung, “His heart is touched with my pain.”

A humble mind: As opposed to a proud heart. Attitude & outlook should be humble.

Each characteristic is elsewhere enjoined on Christians in Scripture:

  1. Unity of mind: Romans 15.5; Philippians 2.1-2
  2. Sympathy: Romans 12.15
  3. Brotherly Love: John 13.34-35; Hebrews 13.1 [this is the lynch pin which holds these together]
  4. Tender-heartedness: Ephesians 4.32
  5. Humble-Mindedness: Philippians 2.3-4

These are the backbone to healthy relationships among brothers & sisters, yes, even a healthy church. Where these are absent, division, bitterness, & hard-heartedness abound. When these characteristics are absent from the church, repayment of evil rears its ugly, sinful head. So v.9…

9Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.

Do not…reviling: Evil is all-around bad behavior, bad actions, even abusive actions. Reviling is focused on the slander which is spoken; abusive & harmful speech. This injunction or a similar form of it is all over the New Testament (Romans 12.17; 1 Thessalonians 5.15).  Of course, Christ is the example of this (2.23).

As Acappella sang: “Don’t be talking ‘bout friends when they’re not around,/ Don’t be cuttin’ their hearts and puttin’ them down,/ Don’t be temptin’ the Lord and makin’ Him frown,/ Don’t be talkin’ ‘bout friends when they’re not around.” Beyond words are our actions, which typically speak louder than words. The flesh desires to get people back. If someone has slighted us, our flesh wants to slight them back. It does not have to be to a greater degree (though if we can get them back more, great!); it could be to a lesser degree. Someone did something untoward to you & now you ignore them. Maybe they wave at you across a room but you just turn your head & ignore them like they don’t exist. Is this not repaying evil for evil? Treating a fellow creature of the Creator as if they do not exist is bad enough; how much worse is it when they are your brother or sister!

But…bless: On the contrary is an emphatic contrast. It is not merely enough to not repay evil; we must invest goodness. Once again, Christ is our example. His teaching (Luke 6.28-29) & life are a testimony to returning good for evil. Following His example, Christians desire God to show grace to those who have caused them to suffer.

“Bless,” says Peter. “When reviled, we bless,” says Paul (1 Corinthians 4.12). And this is not the tepid and usually sarcasm filled “God bless” or “Jesus loves you” which is plastic and phony. Can we imagine Peter or Paul ejaculating a fake “God bless”? Can you imagine Paul or Peter spitting out “Jesus loves you” through gritted teeth? No, this is calling upon God to show those who have injured or insulted us His grace & favor. And to really mean it! And bless not merely in word or talk, but in deed and in truth. Let your actions bless those who revile you and persecute you. “Do good to those who hate you.” This is profoundly personal. One personal was to do good to someone which will also adjust your attitude toward them so you might move past how they hurt you is to pray for them. Talk to the Father about them & speak of them to Him.

  1. Send an encouragement note, appreciation card, thank you note
  2. Speak a kind word of appreciation
  3. Visit them when they get sick

For to this…a blessing: Christians have been called to emulate Christ in returning evil for good. The purpose of this is to obtain a blessing. Most commentators say the blessing is eternal life since the text Peter quotes from in v.10-12 mentions “life.” The blessing is ambiguous , though, and no doubt includes present blessings in this life. God blesses godly behavior now & in the life to come.

10For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit;

Psalm 34.9 is an exhortation to “fear YHWH.” Peter has already exhorted his readers to “fear God” (2.17). Psalm 34.11 tells us these verses which Peter quotes (v.12-16) are instruction concerning the fear of YHWH. Just existing is not life. “Life is real! Life is earnest!” Living well (& dying well) eludes many because it abides in the realm of living for God. Many people can live a long life (70 or by reason 80); but to live a full, happy life begins with, continues in, and ends in the fear of God.

For…good days: For (gar) links this to v.9. Peter quotes Psalm 34.12-16 to make his point. The quote is from the Septuagint with the second person changed to third person. The blessings (love life and see good days) are for this present life, strengthening the argument that the blessing in v.9 is for the present life. Love life speaks to enjoying life (present & eternal). Good days is a way of speaking of God’s favor in the life of the faithful person. Basically, this is a full & beneficial life.

Let him…deceit: The keys to this kind of blessing are two-fold: controlling the mouth (v.9b) & seeking goodness (v.10).  Controlling the tongue includes abstaining from evil speech, especially deceit (cf. 2.1). Truly a heart & mind free from evil intentions (v.9) would have a mouth free of evil.

James tells us that “no one can tame the tongue” & it is “full of deadly poison” (James 3.8). Jesus tells us we will give account for every word – thoughtful or thoughtless – we utter & our words will justify or condemn us (Matthew 12.36-37). No wonder Peter, quoting David, exhorts us to cease from speaking evil & deceit. A happy life is interrupted by evil speech & deception. Indeed, life with God is interrupted when our lips are full of evil.

11let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.

Let him…do good: Like Job (1.1), the Christian is to stay away from evil actions & behaviors. Rather, Christians are to a be an active, positive force in society following the example of Christ who “went about doing good” (Acts 10.38).

Evil is close at hand, nor far from each one of us, desiring to have us. All evil is to be shunned, avoided, turned away from. Evil companions, evil words, evil works, evil thoughts, evil people, every appearance of evil is to be abandoned.

“Do good” is Peter’s two word exhortation for how Christians are to live. This exhortation is all over this epistle: 2.12, 14, 15, 20; 3.6, 9, 11, 13, 16, 17; 4.19. It is juxtaposed with doing evil: 3.9, 12, 17; 4.3-5. Of course, the motivation for doing good is that “the Lord is good” (2.3). He is the source & reason for any goodness from us.

Let him…pursue it: Seeking peace would involve the desire to be at peace in one’s spirit knowing that one is right with God as well as peace with fellow man. Pursue denotes intense effort exerted to chase down a thing, in this case peace. There is diligence & eagerness involved in the quest for peace.

12For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

For…[the] righteous: Or “The Lord’s eyes are on those who are righteous.” The all-seeing eye of God is a theme prevalent in the Bible (e.g. 2 Chronicles 16.9; Zechariah 4.10). It denotes His omniscience. He sees all & knows all. It echoes what Jesus promised in Matthew 28.20.

What comfort to know that God is watching you. When you suffer, He knows. When you hurt, He knows. When you resist temptation, He sees. As we strive for a godly, holy life, He sees & knows and is there to provide for us when we cry out to Him (see Psalm 34.17-18).

At the same time, what a fearful thing to know that God is watching. When you gossip about someone, He knows. When you tear someone down, He sees. When you think unholy thoughts, He knows. Let us avoid these practices lest we sow a habit of sin and incur God’s displeasure so that He turns away and turns against us.

His ears are open to their prayer: What a marvelous blessing which accompanies a life lived to honor & glorify God—He hears our prayers. See Psalm 34.17. For Christians suffering persecution this is a much needed assurance that God’s ear is open to their plea for help.

But…do evil: A regular theme in the Bible is that God sets His face against ungodly people for their wicked behavior (Leviticus 26.14-17; Jeremiah 21.10; Ezekiel 15.7). It is judgment language. The rest of the verse in Psalm 34 says God will “cut off the memory of them from the earth.”

13Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good?

Now…what is good? A possible Old Testament allusion (cf. Proverbs 16.7; Isaiah 50.9). Certainly this question is rhetorical anticipating the answer “no one.” But this was not these Christians’ experience. No doubt they already were deeply committed to the One who is good & doing what is good. Yet they were suffering injury & hurt for their devotion to goodness.

It’s embarrassing to talk about suffering in an American context when we really do not know persecution like the 1st century church. We are actually the proof of this proverb: no one harms you if you eager to do good. However, these Christians in Asia must have thrown their hands up & rolled their eyes while uttering an exasperated “Really, Peter?!”

14But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled,

But…you will be blessed: Peter has Jesus’ voice ringing in his ears (cf. Matthew 5.10). But (Gk all’) introduces the potential scenario. Righteousness seems equivalent with “zealous for what is good” in v.13. If you should suffer is in the rare optative mood, a form used if the possibility was unlikely. Yet even if such should happen or even is happening in Asia Minor, those who experience such persecution are blessed. Hence, no harm can really befall the Christian since God blesses (He sees & hears, v.12; cf. Psalm 34.15).

Knowing that these Christians are suffering for the sake of righteousness, Peter reminds them of the eighth beatitude Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount. For the coming increase in persecution he wanted them ready to face it. The bliss of God belongs to those suffer for being a Christian.

Have no fear…troubled: Quoted from Isaiah 8.12. The context in Isaiah is preparation for the coming Assyrian invasion. Here the context is assurance during & preparation for persecution. Lit. do not fear what they fear. Also, though different, Peter no doubt has in mind the words of Christ: “Let not your hearts be troubled.” Fearless & courageous living is what Peter calls these Christians to be. Christians are not to fear impending circumstances or threatening opponents.

Christians are not to fear what the world fears. We do not fear ISIS or Russia or Saudi Arabia. We do not fear the creeping infringement of our rights by the government. We are fearless while the world is fearful. We are courageous while the world is cowardly. Why? Back in Isaiah (8.12-13), he was not to fear the advancing armies of a foreign foe; he (and we) are to fear YHWH, leader of angelic armies of heaven. By quoting that text in relation to Christ he puts Jesus on the same as YHWH, rightly so. Christ the Lord is God & it is Him we reverence though the world retreat.

Should the whole world turn against & Christianity be illegal (as it has been in years long past), we will not fear their threats by which they seek to instill fear in us. We will not fear their attempted fear inducing slander or hate-speech. We will not be emotionally or psychologically shaken or disturbed. While it shouldn’t be that we suffer for good (v.13), even if does happen we will trust Christ, come what may.

15but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,

But…as holy: Peter continues the quote from Isaiah 8 but makes a significant change: whereas in Isaiah the one to be revered as holy was YHWH, that same reverence is now to be rendered to Christ who is the Lord (even YHWH, thus Christ is God). This is a typical move in the NT: Christ deserves the same honor & reverence as YHWH. No doubt Peter intends for his readers to “let Him be your fear and let Him be your dread” (Isaiah 8.13b). Peter wants his readers to fear Christ and fear no other. How? By having & holding the Holy One in their hearts.

Always being…in you: Christ in us is the hope of glory (Colossians 1.27), that is, anticipation of resurrection & eternal life. Christians ought to be in a state of readiness to make a defense (Gk apologian), i.e. a verbal response & answer. Asks is actually more of an urgent, even demanding request for explanation. Anyone is any person who sees Jesus in us but does not know Christ. All of this indicates that people ought to be able to see Christian hope on display in the lives of Christians.

Yet…respect: When Christians offer a word of explanation for the hope in them, it must be with gentleness & respect. Gentleness is how we are treat our fellow man. It requires humility. Respect (Gk phobou) is our attitude toward God. We hold Him in reverence. Christians who fear God & walk humbly before Him & others will treat people the way they want to be treated—with dignity & understanding. Proper perspective of God will enable Christians to respond properly to non-believers.

This is a key text for our evangelistic efforts. Four factors for evangelism – 1 Peter 3.15

  1. The Sanctified/Holy Factor – “sanctify Christ in your hearts as holy”

First, what Christians need to do before they engage anyone in rational, religious discussion: “set apart Christ in your hearts as Lord.” If we do not do this first, we have no business telling others (denominational or otherwise) about Christ the Lord “who can change your life.” Unless He has changed our life first, we hamstring any (every?) effort we may attempt in reaching out to anyone. That is why Christ is set apart “in your hearts.” The heart is the source of our behavior (cf. 1.22; 3.4). Everything we do comes from the heart. The inner self cannot be separated from the outward person. This is why we must be holy as He is holy inside & out.

  1. The Preparation Factor – “always be prepared”

Second, if we would engage anyone (denominational person or non-believer), we had better “always be prepared to make a defense.” Christianity is not a “blind leap.” Instead, it is based on historical facts, “evidence which demands a verdict” (as Josh McDowell puts it). So we need to arm ourselves with these facts which bolster our faith. By the way, these facts are contained in our NTs: the historical death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus as well as the emergence of the 1st century church. Now this can go as shallow or as deep as you want to take it. But the point remains: Christians are a prepared people who can “give an answer” or “make a defense.” While not every Christian need be a skilled apologist (a la Josh McDowell or William Lane Craig), every Christian should have a firm grasp of the essentials & why Christianity is true.

  1. The Obvious Factor – “to everyone who asks you about the hope”

Third, it should be so obvious that we are a Christian, that people are asking about our faith. “…be prepared to make a defense to anyone who ask you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” One author calls this “permission evangelism.” People want to know what makes you different. And if you live differently than the world (a key tenent of the Christian faith, btw), people will take notice. Specifically, this is related to our “hope,” that is, our anticipation & expectation that “every little gon’ be alright” and even now is being made right through us & how we respond to circumstances. Ask yourself this: if being a Christian were against the law, would there be enough evidence to convict you? If not, something is wrong. Not only that, don’t bet on anyone asking you about your “hope”; chances are you may not have any!

  1. The Attitude/Gentle Factor – “with gentleness and respect”

Fourth, when someone asks you (and they will), give your answer/make your defense “with gentleness and respect.” There’s no need to beat someone to death with the doctrine stick; most people, however, respond very well when we approach them with the mentality that we’re all trying to find the truth and it is contained in the Bible, which is God’s word. Together, let’s see if we can find it. That’s gentleness – not compromising (since we are pointing them right back to the Bible). But also, understand that this person is coming to the study/discussion with a lot of presuppositions. in other words, time, culture, and environment has affected the way this person views the world. Respect that, but also don’t be afraid to challenge them with what the Scriptures say. Great cross reference – 2 Cor 10.5: “we destroy arguments…take every thought captive to obey Christ.”

16having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

Having a good conscience: conscience is the minds ability to distinguish between right and wrong. One maintains a good conscience when 1) one maintains clear views of what is good & bad and 2) one obeys the dictates of the conscience. In this evangelistic context, there is a right & wrong way to “make a defense” and one’s conscience is kept good when one seeks to do that which is right & avoid what is wrong in giving reasons for their inner hope.

So that…put to shame: cf. 2.11-12, 15. A good conscience is the result of good behavior in Christ. Slander is silenced and slanderers shamed when Christians live the Christian life well. The aim of shame is that those who slander & revile would themselves consider the gospel & believe.

Someone has said, “A saint is someone whose life makes it easier to believe in God.” Barclay calls the Christian life “the only unanswerable argument for Christianity” (274). Once more Peter is calling to live the life excellently. So excellently that “those who revile your good behavior in Christ” are ashamed they opened their mouths in the first place. The aim of shame is not shame in & of itself; the aim is that our enemies and persecutors are embarrassed they misunderstood Christian conduct, regret what they have done, repent & trust Christ.

17For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.

For it is better…than for doing evil: cf. 2.19-20; 4.15. It must be for doing good that a Christian suffer. If suffering is deserved for doing evil (e.g. the penalty for crime), it is not good or better; it is merely justice. But when suffering is unjust (i.e. for good Christian behavior) yet according to God’s will, it is superior, better, indeed, Christ-like (v.18).

If…God’s will: Lit. “If the will of God should will it.” If this happens in some instances (optative), strange though it may seem, when it happens, it is better to suffer for good rather than evil.  Cf. 1.6.

When we grumble and complain and accuse of injustice when we are caused to suffer, we spoil the whole thing. Instead, there are lessons in suffering; we rob ourselves of these by 1) avoiding suffering at all costs or 2) complaining about what we are suffering. Peter wants us to know what a “better” thing it is to suffer at the hands of evildoers for our doing good. In fact, it is most Christ-like.

The End of Psalms – Psalm 150

The journey through Psalms is a difficult yet rewarding one. It has highs and lows, ups & downs. There are the valleys of soul-crushing darkness & death and then peaks of majesty & glory. The journey is filled with lament, protest, questions followed by praise, refocus, and declaration of the character & redeeming acts of God. 150 chapters, and a single verse simply won’t do justice to the conclusion of this trek. In fact, it is going to take 5 psalms to wrap this whole book up. The final 5 psalms serve as a doxology for the whole book focused on “Hallelujah,” a transliteration of the Hebrew for “Praise YHWH.” 36 times this word appears in these final 5 psalms. God is worthy of praise from everyone & everything. Psalm 150 is the finale of this grand spiritual concert.

Doxologies for Each Book

A doxology is an exclamation of praise & blessing. Each book in Psalms end with a doxology.

Book 1: “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! Amen and Amen.” (Psalm 41:13)

Book 2: “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things. Blessed be his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory! Amen and Amen!” (Psalm 72:18–19)

Book 3: “Blessed be the Lord forever! Amen and Amen.” (Psalm 89:52)

Book 4: “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! And let all the people say, “Amen!” Praise the Lord!” (Psalm 106:48)

Book 5: “My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord, and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.” (Psalm 145:21)

Celebration to End the Book

Celebrating the Creator (146): “Who made heaven & earth” – the Creator, unlike earthly princes who die (v.2-3); He executes justice for His creatures (7-9), watching out for the little guy. So praise Him!

Celebrating the Greatness & Goodness of God (147): The one who named every star (v.4) is good to the weak and the meek (6). He’s so great, yet He is good to the little guy. Not only individual; He’s good to Israel with kindness that He doesn’t show to any other nation (12-20, esp.20). So praise Him!

Celebration High & Low (148): We know this one because we sing it. The whole cosmos, universe is called upon to muster praise for God. From the highest heights of the heavens to the lowest regions of earth and everywhere in between; animate & inanimate, people & things – cry out in praise. Praise Him!

Celebration from His People (149): YHWH takes pleasure in His people, so let them rejoice in Him and praise Him. He has been merciful to His people and will issue future justice & vengeance upon His enemies (which are the enemies of Israel). Thru God’s help, His people will conquer their enemies. God protects & takes pleasure in His beloved. So praise Him!

Final Hallelujah (150)

Note: Praise (the verb) is used 12 times in 6 verses, 11 of them are commands with the one being an invitation (Let us praise…).

Where (1-2)? 1) In Heaven (1): in the heavenly “sanctuary” although the Temple courts would no doubt be a reflection of what is happening in heaven. 2) On Earth (2): God accomplishes His “mighty deeds” on earth, in the world.

How (3-5)? Notice that there is no content to the praise except verse 2 about His mighty deeds. Of course, the preceding four (4) psalms provide ample material for praise. But notice also, all the instruments and instrumental music which is praise to God. An interesting note: the Law only gives directions concerning the trumpet & the horn. But there are several other instruments listed here, brought in by David.

Who (6)? Everyone that has “breath.” All living beings. He gave them breath, let them breathe His praise. Cf. Revelation 5.13. Just as God gave breath at the beginning, so He expects us to use that breath to worship, praise, adore Him. All of the faculties are called upon to worship God: The breath is needed to blow the trumpet; fingers are needed to pluck the stringed instruments; the hand is used to beat the tambourine; the feet move in dancing – everything, every part of the person is engaged in this excited state of worship.

Let me first begin by reminding us that we are the temple of the Lord today. We are reflection of what is taking place in the heavenly realms, even in the very throne room of God. We are seated with Christ in the heavenly places. Our every step, our every move ought to be a reflection of God’s holiness & glory. Our every breath ought to be a praise to God.

Second, how’s your worship brother/sister? Is your worship mostly just a mental appreciation? “I praise you.” I know some people get carried away with the emotions of worship, but worship ought to have emotion as well. Look at this Psalm: if were transported back to this time when the Israelites were singing & praising God, we couldn’t get out of there fast enough. “Who are they worshipping?” YHWH.

One is virtually breathless when you get through this psalm! The end of Psalms is an invitation to bold, loud, exuberant, excited, enthusiastic worship to YHWH. “Hallelujah” – every breath is both a cause & an invitation to praise Him. It must become praise itself. Our whole life must become a psalm.  We merely join in the chorus that reverberates throughout the cosmos. Scientists think they are hearing residual sound from the big bang; nah, that’s the cosmos singing the praise of King YHWH.

The Most Quoted Psalm – Psalm 110

Several passages from the Old Testament are quoted or alluded to in the New Testament, some of them more than once (e.g. “The just shall live by faith” – Rom 1.17; Gal 3.11; Heb 10.38). But there is no passage in the Old Testament quoted or alluded to more in the NT as Psalm 110. Far & away it is the most quoted Psalm. Why? It seems because it contains the epitome of the gospel: the coronation of Christ as King-Priest. Also contained here are core doctrinal principles: 1) Godhead/Trinity (v.1); 2) Suffering as priest poured out (v.4); 3) Resurrection (v.7); 4) Completed work (5-6); 5) Ascension (1, sit at my right hand); 6) Church (v.3); 7) Final judgment (1b); 8) Eternal life (v.4, “forever”).

The Lord (Jesus) is our king-priest according to the ancient oath of God. How can Christ be priest AND King? Psalm 110 provides clarity which would have been odd esp. to a Jew. Without doubt, as the superscription states, this is “a psalm of David.” So here is King David writing about the King-Priest: YHWH’s Lord.

The Kingdom (1-3)

 

1The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand…”

Christ’s Place (1a): YHWH speaks to adonai, which means David heard YWHH speak to Christ. Notice “right hand” which is the seat of power, dominion, dignity. YHWH tells Him to “sit” because His work is over and YHWH will fight for Him. The whole Godhead is involved here: Father speaks to the Son & the Holy Spirit permits David to hear this holy conversation and then enables him to record it in sacred writ. “What is man that thou shouldst impart thy secrets unto him” (Spurgeon).

Note: Verse 1 is the most quoted and alluded to OT verse in the NT – Mt 22.44; 26.64; Mk 13.36; 14.62; 16.19; Lk 20.42-43; 22.69; Acts 2.34-35; 5.31; 7.55-56; Rom 8.34; 1 Cor 15.25; Eph 1.20; Col 3.1; Heb 1.3, 13; 8.1; 10.12-13; 12.2; 1 Pt 3.22 – 24 verses in the NT quote or allude to this single OT verse.

“…until I make your enemies your footstool.”

2The LORD sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter.

Christ’s Power (1b-2a): “scepter” is a typical description in Scripture for power & authority. How powerful? Enemies are made His footstool, viz. He puts His boot on their necks/throats, a common ANE practice. Think about when the victor puts his foot on the chest of his opponent in victory, arms extended overhead.

Rule in the midst of your enemies!

Christian Proclamation (2b): “Rule!” Even David the King cries out for the reign of Messiah. Don’t we pray for this? “Thy kingdom come.” Esp. when tragedy strikes we need this: though your enemies are many, rule!

3Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power, in holy garments; from the womb of the morning, the dew of your youth will be yours.

Christ’s People (3): “Willing” – that is, willingness is a key characteristic of the people of God. Indeed, willingness is the essence of holiness; Christ’s people must be willing to believe Him, love Him & others, obey Him, live in holiness, die to sin, crucify the flesh, abide in God’s will, suffer for Christ’s cause. All of this and more is how we offer ourselves freely to Christ.

The Priesthood (4)

Note: This is the 2nd most quoted or alluded to OT verse in the NT: John 12.24; Heb 5.6, 10; 6.20; 7.3, 17, 21 (7 times).

4The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”

According to the Law: No king could be priest nor any priest a king under the Law. They came from different tribes (Judah – king, Levi – priest). Yet Christ is a king-priest! How?

According to the Lord: This is no ordinary priesthood. First, it is after the order of Melchizedek, a somewhat obscure figure from Gen 14 was king of Salem (proto-Jerusalem) as well as priest of God Most High. Second, this is not like the priests under the Law who served for just a few years or even had a lifetime appointment; this is “forever.” Third, notice that this is an ancient oath “sworn” by God and He will not back off. It’s a done deal.

Christ is both Sovereign (king) & Savior (priest) – He fights for us and forgives our sins. But notice His ultimate victory which closes this Psalm…

God’s Ultimate Victory (5-7)

5The Lord is at your right hand; he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath.

6He will execute judgment among the nations, filling them with corpses; he will shatter chiefs over the wide earth.

Wrath (5-6):  Kings, nations, chiefs who oppose the progress of the gospel are shattered, turned to corpses. First, is it any wonder that Israel anticipated an earthly king? This is a song from their song book which is undoubtedly messianic (no king fits the bill here save Messiah). So they sing this for centuries about a king who would turn the nations to corpses, Who exercises universal might. Second, if God can get the kings who oppose Him (and He does, see Acts 12.22 and every other king historically which has opposed the Bible & Christianity), then no one who opposes the gospel is safe. Meaning: Fall in line with YHWH and things will go well!

7He will drink from the brook by the way; therefore he will lift up his head.

Refreshment (7): After a long day of exhausting spiritual work, the Lord drinks from “the brook by the way.” Pictured here is the pause in pursuit of an enemy, similar to Gideon & his band who were “exhausted yet pursuing” (Jud 8.4). So here is Adonai (the Lord), pausing at the brook and being refreshed to continue the pursuit. But some day, the pursuit will cease…

Now all this prefigures the end, cf. 1 Corinthians 15.23-28 where this text is alluded to (see v.25). At present we do not see all things in subjection (Heb 2.8). Here is God’s ultimate & final victory over death & evil, esp. v.28. Then, when all things are subjected to Him, God will be all in all.

Verse 1 is either quoted or alluded 24 times in the NT. If I may, that’s one for every hour of the day to remind us constantly that Christ is STILL on the throne. Verse 7 is referenced 7 times, once for each day of the week to remind us Christ’s atoning work is complete. One day He will get up & come back and finally & fully deal with every foe including death.

The Great Benefits of Our Gracious God – Psalm 103

A career with benefits. Some of you have a job which has benefits (perks) which you enjoy: maybe a company car, expense account, retirement stuff, bonuses, etc. Maybe you don’t have a career with benefits and want one. As Christians we have a career with benefits: our career is our Christian walk which we daily engage in and the benefits are manifold from our gracious God. Someone has called Psalm 103 “Heaven’s benefits package.” Our gracious God is worthy of praise for His great benefits He gives. What are the various benefits of our gracious God? In Psalm 103, David highlights several benefits YHWH provides His people.

1Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!

2Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,

The Psalmist calls on “all that is within me” to remember “all His (Gods) benefits” (1-2). “God’s all cannot be praised with less than our all” (Spurgeon 2: 276).

Benefit #1: Salvation (3-5)

3who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,

Forgiving (3a): certainly God has forgiven in the past, but He continues to forgive (pres. Tense). It’s continual – He is still forgiving. The scope of forgiveness is “all iniquity.” All wrongdoing is removed. From His immense steadfast love (v.12) He removes all our sins, transgressions, and iniquity (v.13).

Healing (3b): the term “diseases” is used figuratively (poetically) for the sickness of sin. Further, the parallelism of this verse combined in the larger context of v.3-5 and Psalm 103 generally points to spiritual sickness & healing.

Note: I do not, though, wish to minimize the healing power of YHWH, the God of health. “Among the greatest blessings which we receive of God is recovery from sickness” (Pulpit 8.2.382). Whether by natural or supernatural means, God is able to work healing (See Psa 30.2). That’s why, when we one of us gets sick, we pray. And there is NT precedence for this (James 5.14).

4who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,

Redeeming (4a): “redeems your life from the pit” seems to be language that would be familiar to the Jewish mind concerning the patriarch Joseph. God redeemed Joseph from the pit thru the Ishmaelites. Rescue by ransom.

Adorning (4b): with steadfast love and mercy. More in #2…

5who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Satisfying (5): “good” things come from our good God and He “satisfies” us with them. The people of God are the only satisfied people on earth. While unbelievers search in vain for satisfaction, Christians have found true satisfaction from the only source of satisfaction. See 1 Timothy 6.17.

Benefit #2: Steadfast Love (4b, 8, 11, 17-18)

Intentionally in the middle (of the sermon) because this is the lynch-pin to this Psalm.

4who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,

The Crown of Steadfast Love (4): exclusively reserved for His people who enter into covenant with Him (“us”). Not a crown of jewels and gems, but of grace and “lovingkindness” (ASV, KJV). This is something which God continues to do (“adorning”), He is continuously pouring our His steadfast love (and mercy, too!) upon our heads.

8The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

11For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;

The Cornucopia of Steadfast Love (8, 11): He’s got lots of it! So great is His is love, it is inexhaustible! Like the horn with all the food and vegetables coming out we often see at Thanksgiving, so God’s love is pictured as overflowing. What’s it like David? Verse 11.

17But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children,

18to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments.

The Conditions for Steadfast Love (17-18): 1) Fear YHWH – that reverential awe and respect of the one true Creator. 2) Faithfulness (keep covenant) – even as God keeps covenant; God says, “I will be your God” to which the people say, “We will be you people.” Involved in this is a standard of conduct shaped by principles and values established by God. 3) Obedience (remember commandments) – perhaps some parallelism here; we remember His commandments when we keep covenant.

Note: Nelson Glueck on Heb. Hesed “in its secular usage as ‘conduct in accord with a mutual relationship of rights and duties’; he also emphasized the mutual or reciprocal and the obligatory character of the term in its religious usage for persons in relation to each other and to God.” “Israel understood God to be committed to the community in covenant relationship as the One who provided for all needs, yet One also always free and uncoercible.” This Hebrew term “compactly incorporates all three of these dimensions (commitment, provision for need, freedom) in a single word” (ABD 4: 377). Unconditional? Hardly! See Ex 20.5-6, 2nd commandment.

Benefit #3: Slow to Anger (8, 13-16)

Does He get angry? Oh, yes. We read about the wrath of God. But of His slowness… 2 Peter 3.9; Romans 2.4

8The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

13As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.

14For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.

15As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field;

16for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.

YHWH the Father (13): While Jesus would come to show us God the Father, even in the OT, the concept was there. David recognizes the paternal patience of YHWH, like a father is patient and compassionate with his children.

YHWH the Creator (14): He knows and remembers certain things about us (our frame, we are dust). How does He know these things? He’s the one who created us! And since He knows us, He knows we are “frail children of dust” (esp. seen in 15-16) and cannot withstand His holy, righteous anger.

Since God is the Father and since He is the Creator, He is slow to become angry. He treats us, His children, with compassion, mercy, and grace.

It’s the greatest benefits package in the world. And it’s ours! So it’s no wonder David closes this with a doxology of praise to God. Everything needs to praise God because He’s given us salvation, shows us steadfast love, and is slow to anger.

WORKS CITED

Freedman, David Noel. The Anchor Bible Dictionary. New York: Doubleday, 1996. CD-ROM.

Spence, H.D.M. and Joseph S. Exell. The Pulpit Commentary. 23 vols. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1962. Print.

Spurgeon, Charles. The Treasury of David. 2 vols. Nashville: Nelson, n.d. Print.

Robed in Majesty

The LORD reigns; he is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed; he has put on strength as his belt. Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.” (Psalm 93:1, ESV)

The LORD reigns, let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad!” (Psalm 97:1, ESV)

The LORD reigns; let the peoples tremble! He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake!” (Psalm 99:1, ESV)

The LORD (Heb. YHWW, the covenant God of Israel) reigns. Therefore, YHWH is King. That YHWH is King is a thread which is all over the OT. Indeed, God’s kingdom is an eternal kingdom (2 Peter 1.11, which speaks of the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, i.e. Christ’s kingdom is NOT almost 2,000 yrs old as some in the brotherhood have claimed). Psalms 93-99 picture the majestic King & what it means for YHWH to be King. YHWH is the majestic King. But what does that mean?

The Majesty of Seeing God

Ezekiel (ch.1): Ezekiel sees the chariot of God, God’s Rolls Royce, a living vehicle transporting the living God. Then God rides up and notice that the best Ezekiel can do is use simile to describe the majesty & glory of God (esp.v. 26-28). He is beholding the glorious majesty of God.

Daniel (ch.7): We typically come to Daniel 7 because of the vision of the eternal kingdom of the Son of Man (i.e. Jesus), running straight for the interpretation; however, I want us to pause here and note the glory of the Lord described here. Here is God – the Ancient of Days – and Christ – the Son of Man – in heavenly glory, majesty. Daniel gets a glimpse and records it.

Transfiguration (Matt 17.1-8; Mark 9.2-8; Luke 9.22-27): Building on the Son of Man motif, the gospels record the glory of Jesus as His humanity is pulled back & His deity shows forth for a moment in time.

Revelation (chs.4-5): Described here is heaven, even the throne room of God. Words fail to completely capture what John sees and like the prophets of old, he struggles to capture the majesty of God.

These written accounts serve to describe the glorious majesty of God, picturing God “robed in majesty” as the King YHWH.

The Majesty & The Earth (93.1; 96.10)

The Lord reigns; he is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed; he has put on strength as his belt. Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.” (Psalm 93:1, ESV)

Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns! Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity.”” (Psalm 96:10, ESV)

Immovable, Unshakeable: God does this; He makes the earth established. We know from the NT He does this thru Christ (Heb 1.3, “sustaining all things by His powerful word”). He holds absolute sway over the world and everything in it. Nothing disturbs it unless God allows it to do so. Notice, the earth is happy about that (97.1) – it rejoices & is glad God is in control. So too should we be happy. We should adore God for His majestic power. “Atheism is the mother of anarchy; the reigning power of God exhibited in true religion is the only security for the human common-wealth. A belief in God is the foundation and corner-stone of a well-ordered state.” (Spurgeon 2:135).

Earthquake! Then the holy splendor of God causes the earth to quake. His glory is earth shaking! Let the whole world be moved to adoring awe, every tribe, language, people must bow before His infinite majesty.

The Majesty of God’s Vengeance (94.1)

O LORD, God of vengeance, O God of vengeance, shine forth!” (Psalm 94:1, ESV)

Revenge? No, not revenge, which denotes an evil intention, delighting in the return for injury for injury. Throughout the NT we are told “See that no one repays anyone evil for evil,” that is, do not seek revenge. Certainly God is not in the revenge business. However…

Avenge: When it comes to upholding justice & righteousness, God will avenge and mete out vengeance upon those public wrongs. We must understanding that this serves to preserve a society. For example, the punishment of a criminal by the state is what is necessary to maintain law & order – it is not revenge, but it does seek to uphold justice by avenging bad (evil) behavior. So God, robed in majestic justice & righteousness, perfectly judges the earth and repays the wicked what they deserve for their evil behavior.

The Majesty of the King’s Holiness (99.3, 5, 9)

Let them praise your great and awesome name! Holy is he!” (Psalm 99:3, ESV)

Exalt the LORD our God; worship at his footstool! Holy is he!” (Psalm 99:5, ESV)

Exalt the LORD our God, and worship at his holy mountain; for the LORD our God is holy!” (Psalm 99:9, ESV)

Let us tremble – not at His power, or His greatness but at His holiness. Notice the triple “holy, holy, holy” in Psalm 99. This seems to correspond to the “holy, holy, holy” of the seraphim in God’s throne in Isa 6. “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Holiness Rules According to the Perfect Standard: “God is light” and His holy reign will be absolutely (morally) perfect. cf. Psa 19.7-9

Holiness Works Toward Highest Ends: God is infinitely wise and infinitely good. These combine so that He always seeks what is best for all men, esp. His people. “God so loved the world…” to see Christ in us.

Holiness Sees Patient Suffering: We’ve seen a number of Psalms where the psalmists are right on the brink of throwing in the towel. But God sees this & everything. And He sustains them and us through it; you have breath in your lungs because He allows it.

Holiness Elicits Worship from Creation: “Worship at His holy mountain…at His footstool.” How could we do otherwise? The angels of heaven are praising His holiness even as we speak.

Behold your King! This same King left the splendor of heaven, put on flesh, lived among us a perfect life and died on a cross so that we might have the right & privilege of enter into His rule & reign as citizens. One day we will meet Him – we’ll have our Revelation 4, Ezekiel 1, Daniel 7 moment and see the King face-to-face.

The Janitor’s Psalm – Psalm 84

James Montgomery Boice calls Psalm 84 “The Janitor’s Psalm.” Psalm 84 is another Psalm of the sons of Korah. They wrote a total of a dozen (42-49, 84-85, 87-88).Permeating this Psalm is the language of those whose hearts delight in God. They delighted in joyful service rendered unto God. God is interested in the simplest tasks of the simplest men. Who were the sons of Korah? Let’s build the background for this Psalm before looking at it.

The Janitors of the Temple – The Sons of Korah

Rebellion: Their daddy (or distant relative) led a rebellion against Moses with 250 community leaders (See Numbers 26.9-11). Their daddy & his band died, but the sons of Korah did not die. In gratitude to God they devoted themselves to producing praise…

Religion: 1) Music: Korah was one of five major Levitical families (see Numbers 26.53; 1 Chronicles 6.31-33). The sons of Korah are a family of Levites David organized into a musical guild; they were a Levitical family of singers. 2) Doormen: or janitors, if you will. In 1 Chronicles 26, men of “great ability” and who were “qualified” were set over the east, north, south, & west gates of the temple. Korahites were among those whose duty involved the menial task of watching the gates.

The Janitors’ Worship (Psalm 84)

Sanctuary (1-4): the beatitude of the house-dwellers (v.4). The bliss of God belongs to those who are forever the houseguests of God. They are singing about the dwelling place (residence) of YHWH. Since God lived at Zion, those who lived there were the most blessed of all people on earth.

1How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!

2My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.

Body (2): My whole nature, the very essence of my being has a holy homesickness, lovesickness for the King’s courts. Mind you, these are guys who worked and lived at the temple, but even then, they still craved God.

3Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.

Birds (3): Both the sparrows & the swallows find their place in God’s sanctuary. They built nests in the eaves of the temple. These birds sometimes actually nested inside the sleeping quarters of the priests. There is such security for these birds that their young are safe. So the psalmist is say that the people of God can find such security for themselves with no fear of enemies. There may even be some symbolism in the birds mentioned: typically the sparrow is used to symbolize worthlessness (were they not sold for small, copper coins of little value, Mt 10.29). Swallows seems to symbolize restlessness, flying here and there (Prov 26.2). So our souls away from God are restless until they find rest in Him.

Note: “My King and My God” – notice how personal this is, with the double “my.” It is as if the psalmist seeks to take hold of God with both hands.

4Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise! Selah

 

Strength (5-8): The beatitude of those whom God strengthens (v.5). The bliss of God is for those who do not rely upon their own strength. Since the focus on this Psalm is on getting to the place where God lives, then the strength provided here is to get the weary traveler to Zion.

5Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion.

6As they go through the Valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools.

The Valley (6): of Baca or weeping. This was a barren, desolate desert place. Those making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem would have ventured thru this rough terrain. But those who rely upon the blessing of God’s strength turn even that dry place into a valley of springs & pools of water.

7They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion.

The Victory (7): Since God is our Strengthener, we receive grace upon grace, strength upon strength to make our pilgrimage thru the Valley and up to Jerusalem where God is. So we appear before God in Zion. As we go to our heavenly Zion (a city with foundations), we are strengthening one another & blessing those we meet.

8O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah

Shield (9-12): The beatitude of those who trust in God (v.12). The bliss of God belongs to whose faith in in God & God alone (not self or some other).  Typically our notion of a shield is for battle, a defensive part of the armor of a soldier. So God shields His people from the enemies – both material & spiritual. There is a second sense of this concept of shield tho. When a man seeks to kindle a fire, he may shield the flickering flame from the wind. So the God of Jacob did when He kindled a flame which would bless the whole world

9Behold our shield, O God; look on the face of your anointed!

10For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.

Just One Day (10a): Remember: these are the sons of Korah who literally did dwell in the tents of the wicked rebels. But no more. Just one day in joyful service in His courts is greater than 1000 days elsewhere. “Earth holds no treasures but perish with using, However precious they be;/ Yet there’s a country to which I am going: Heaven holds all to me.”

Janitor Work (10b): You’ve probably heard someone say before, “I don’t care if I have to scrub toilets in heaven as long as I’m there!” That’s essentially what the psalmist is saying: give me the most menial, small task – that lowly station in God’s house is better than the highest position among the godless

11For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.

Good Things (11): God is sun (only place in the Bible God is called “a sun”) & shield, the fire starter (light source) & fire keeper. He gives grace (favor) & greatness (honor). His grace enables us to “walk uprightly” before Him; this secures for us the many & various good things (i.e. blessings). Matthew 7.11; Romans 8

12O Lord of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!

Everything we do, no matter how small or mundane it may seem, is important to God. Even the birds of heaven find their home in God’s dwelling. Are we not much more valuable than the sparrow? We must learn to seek & trust God. Life in God & with God is blessed

A Psalm for Old Age – Psalm 71

Many Christians can agree with Isaac (Gen 27.2): “Behold, I am old; I do not know the day of may death.” I am old – now what? Albert Barnes puts it this way: “Who would wish to be an old man? Who can look upon a man tottering with years, and broken down with infirmities; a man whose sight and hearing are gone; a man who is alone amidst the graves of all the friends that he had in early life; a man who is burden to himself, and to the world; a man who has reached the ‘Last scene’ of all that ends this strange eventful history?…And who, in view of such infirmities, can fail to see the propriety of seeking favor of God in early years?”

If I had a dollar for every time a seasoned veteran of the faith told me “Don’t get old” I could retire a rich man right now. But the reality is & we all know that growing old is a part of this life. The older we get the more we must rely/depend upon God. How can an older person keep his/her way pure? Let’s take a look at a Psalm written by David when he was an old man – Psalm 71.

The Problems with Old Age – Looking Around

It is not fun to be old, esp. in America. We once honored & respected the older folks, but sadly this no longer seems to be the case. We value youth & vitality, our culture is geared toward that age group. Plus…

9Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone.

Lack of Strength (9): See Ecc 12.1-7, Solomon paints the portrait of old age poetically – sight gives out, strength diminishes, your various sense dull, sleep is fleeting, your memory isn’t what it used to be.

10For my enemies speak against me; those who wait to kill me conspire together.

Continuation of Trouble (10): Just because you get older doesn’t mean the many & various troubles you’ve had in life go away. In fact, often it is the same problems just a different day you have to deal with it. Finances, family, health, problems; regret, frustrations, depression – these are all real problems which persist even into old age. So…

4Deliver me, my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of those who are evil and cruel. – Rescue me!

11They say, “God has forsaken him; pursue him and seize him, for no one will rescue him.”

Being Alone (11): If you live long enough, you’ll live so long that you’ve outlived everybody else in your life who is/was dear to you. “Does Jesus care when I’ve said ‘good-by’ to the dearest on earth to me,/ And my sad heart breaks till it nearly breaks is it aught to Him? Does He see?”

The Perspective of Old Age – Looking Back

You still have God!

5For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth.

Knowing God (5): Recall God’s faithfulness in your life, all your life. David grew up in Israel learning the faith of his father & forefathers. And as the Psalmist grew, so his trust in God grew. He felt persuaded that the God who had sustained him through his youthful exploits would likewise not forsake him now that he was old.

6Upon you I have leaned from before my birth; you are he who took me from my mother’s womb. My praise is continually of you.

Leaning on God (6): Before our bodies had strength to live, God carried us. He did it then & He continues to do it when strong legs grow weak. God knew us before we knew anything. Before he was able to understand the power that upheld him, he was sustained by it. And now that he is in old age & his feeble legs are giving out, that same power would be what he would lean upon.

7I have been as a portent to many, but you are my strong refuge.

Providence of God (7): “Portent” or a marvel of divine dealings, a prodigy of God’s goodness. It is awe-inspiring how God has worked in David’s life. It is also awe-inspiring how God has worked in your life. Reflect back on where you would have been if not for God providing for you along the way. Protection & blessing, grace & mercy, salvation & sanctification. “All by God’s grace.”

The Potential of Old Age – Looking Forward

You still have a lot to do!

17O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.

18So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.

Proclamation (17-18): God is always concerned about the next generation and the seasoned veterans of the faith likewise should emulate that. “Don’t take me out of this world until I have finished my course and told the next generation about you. Verse 19 is the content of the message: Your righteousness, O God, reaches the high heavens. You who have done great things, O God, who is like you? Even in old age God does great things…

20You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again.

21You will increase my greatness and comfort me again.

Promotion (20-21): Two fold – greatness & comfort. Perhaps there is even a little hint prophetically of resurrection – “revive me again.” Hmm…But certainly God comforts the afflicted. The language used here is the language of a man who has fallen into deep water. God would “bring me up again,” my head above the waters of trouble.

Don’t be a Solomon or an Asa or a Lot who are stumbling across the finish line of life. Be a Caleb! “Give me this land!” (Joshua 14.10-12).

The Praise in Old Age – Looking Up

15My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day, for their number is past my knowledge.

19Your righteousness, O God, reaches the high heavens. You who have done great things, O God, who is like you?

24And my tongue will talk of your righteous help all the day long, for they have been put to shame and disappointed who sought to do me hurt.

“You are Righteous” (15, 19, 24): v.15, “righteous acts” are those acts wherein God rewards piety & revenges injury. Everything God does is right & just. Even when He justifies the sinner and causes us to be in right relationship with Him in Christ.

22I will also praise you with the harp for your faithfulness, O my God; I will sing praises to you with the lyre, O Holy One of Israel.

“You are Faithful” (22): v.15, “their number is past my knowledge.” He just keeps doing it over & over again. So, I’m going to sing praises about how you have been faithful!

23My lips will shout for joy, when I sing praises to you; my soul also, which you have redeemed.

“You are My Redeemer” (23): v. 15, “deeds of salvation.” God saved us so that we might be to the praise of His glory. He redeemed from sin, death, & hell. We were like out of tune instruments which just made noise. Now, in Christ, flows harmony & melody fit to magnify the King.

I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread.” (Psalm 37:25, ESV)

The godly are given to prayer. In old age there is a cry to pray more. Psalm 71 is a prayer for the grace necessary to stare down the dark corridor of death with your hand firmly in God’s hand.  The more intimate we are with the Lord the firmer our trust will be.

Longing for God – Psalm 63

God “has put eternity in man’s heart.”

Man has this built-in craving, longing for the eternal, esp. for God. If nothing else, one has a sneaking suspicion that there is more to all this than meets the eye. Some stifle & suppress this, but it never goes away. When a person becomes a part of the people of God this appetite for the Almighty is augmented & must be fed regularly. Sadly, some Christians starve this appetite and is one reason we see people walk away from the Lord. But those few happy souls who hunger & thirst for righteousness & are satisfied so that they might hunger for more, for them…

God is the singular desire of the searching, thirsty soul.

What does it look like to long for God? Psalm 63 captures this craving which Christians today ought to have.

The Soul’s Longing (1)

1O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

Seeking God: Even “my God,” its personal. 1) Earnestly: With eagerness, zeal. I’m going to do this now, immediately; I can’t wait. 2) Early (KJV): First thing I’m going to do even before the sun comes up, I gotta find you. The pillow is despised & the coolness of the AM embraced so that sweet communion with God might be enjoyed.

The Thirst for God: “My soul…my flesh” – everything about me, my whole being craves God. All of me longs for Thee! Notice that God is the object of this thirst; not creeds & confessions & councils; not religious leaders & preachers; not even religious exercises & practices; GOD alone can satisfy this craving. And God is of such a nature that He will grant this request…

It seems that just about every night after the boys are scrubbed, their teeth washed, they’re in their pajamas, prays have been said, & the light turned off that I will hear from the boys’ room, “DAD!” And when I go in there they invariably ask the same thing, “Can I please have a drink of water?” Good dad that I am, I get it for them. So here is David on his bed (v.6) saying, “GOD! Can I have a drink please?” The Father is of such a nature that He readily fetches it for him. And for us!

The Soul’s Looking (2-4)

2So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.

In the Sanctuary (2): David wasn’t at the sanctuary (the tabernacle in his day) to see the crude structure; nor if the temple had been built in his time would he have gone there to see the wonderful stones & wonderful buildings; whenever he went up to the sanctuary it was to seek “my God,” esp. His power & glory. This is what David longs for in the wilderness.

3Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.

God’s Love > My Life (3): God’s covenantal, steadfast, unending love is better than life, or rather, “lives.” God’s love is better than 10,000 lives! Life is dear, but God’s love is dearer. Life is valuable, but God’s love is supreme. Why? Because life is temporary, but God’s love is eternal. Oh, that more people today understood what the saints of old knew.  Too many people view their life as all important, as tho this is all there is. Indeed, some Christians do likewise. No! God’s love is eternal and the thing we are to reach out for.

4So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.

Worship (4): Praise from his lips (3) will flow from his mouth as long as he lives. My whole life is given over to the lover of my soul. The lifting of holy hands (lit.) was an outward manifestation of the inward disposition – as the soul reached out for God so the body too reached to the heavens (or Jerusalem) in an attempt to grasp His presence. Here is the summation of man’s creation & purpose & destiny: the praise of God’s glory.

The Soul’s Living (5-6)

5My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,

Satisfaction (5): “fat & rich foods” are the best of the best, the choice cuts of meat and freshest vegetables & fruit…but remember, this is a spiritual feast provided by God. This “hidden manna” brings spiritual refreshment as we eat with the lover of our soul. It is the food we eat which the world does not know, living water to drink which the world refuses to drink.  So it has been that the saints of God have always been sustained & satisfied by the spiritual.

6when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night;

Meditation (6): Although David misses Jerusalem, he acknowledges that he doesn’t have to be in Zion to enjoy a spiritual feast. Right here on his bed as he recalls & ruminates on God, His glory & power (v.2), he fares sumptuously. “If day’s cares tempt us to forget God, it is well that night’s quiet should lead us to remember him” (Spurgeon). We see God best in the dark.

The Soul’s Lodging (7-8)

7for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.

“Shadow of Your Wings” (7): The top of the Ark of the Covenant was called the mercy seat and this is where God’s presence abided. There were two (2) cherubim on either side of the ark with their wings outstretched and touching over the mercy seat, defending God’s glory. David alludes to these wings and in their shadow where God dwelt is where David finds His help & joy.

8My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.

Intimacy with the Almighty (8): The word “cling” or “follows close” (NKJV) is the same word used for when a man leaves father & mother and “clings” or “cleaves” to his wife. It denotes the close, sacred union of the soul with its God. It means we are glued to God, the lover of our soul. So the soul clings to God & God clings to the soul with His right hand. Even as a husband’s “right hand embraces” his wife (Song of Sol 2.6; 8.3). This is close, personal, active love.

All of me longs for Thee! It should be, ought to be, must be the earnest desire of every Christian to see & enjoy more & more of the power & glory of God. We must long for deeper intimacy with the Almighty, even as our flesh craves food & drink. Only God can satisfy the souls appetite for Him.

Stay thirsty my brethren!

A Psalm that is Repeated – Psalm 53

Psalm 53 is nearly identical to Psalm 14.

If God says something once it is important; it is His word after all. If He says it twice, we must give it special attention. But what if God says it thrice? This Psalm is quoted by Paul in Romans 3.10-12. “This demands out keenest concentration, contemplation, assimilation, and even memorization…we are to ‘read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest.’” (Boice). There is no vain repetition with God. Spurgeon suggests that David wrote the 14th when he was young and turned his attention to it later in life for a “revision” of sorts. What he found was that men were no better later in life as they were when he was younger. Yet God takes care of the faithful who live surrounded by sin & evil. How bad is it really in the world? According to Psalm 53, it is really, really bad. We might say it’s a bad, bad, bad, bad world.

“To the choirmaster: according to Mahalath. A Maskil of David.” The superscription of this psalm calls it “a maskil.” A maskil could mean this is 1) a contemplative song [think about it, hmm…]; 2) a psalm imparting moral wisdom; 3) a well-written psalm (NET).

The Fountain of Sin (1a)

1The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”

“Fool”: this word is typically used to describe a moral deficient person, an impious individual. A fool is one who “finds pleasure in evil conduct” (Prov 10.23, NIV). Not intelligence but impiety is in view. This personal rebellion is what stimulated their “repentance” about God’s existence.

“Heart”: The moral corrupt person must first convince him/herself there is no God. So here is self-deception. So they “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1.18).

“No God”: Ultimately, then, this is a choice to disbelieve in God. There may certainly be real challenges to their faith & attempts to make atheism appear reasonable or rational, but at the heart of atheism is personal rebellion.

The Filthiness of Sin (1b)

They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity; there is none who does good.

“Corrupt”: Here is the deceptiveness of sin – it masquerades as something beautiful & desirable. Like how homosexual behavior is simple another alternative lifestyle or being for abortion is “pro-choice” (who would want to take away options?). Sin makes men altogether filthy.

“Vile”: or “have committed abominable injustice” (NASB). Is there really any greater injustice men can commit than to make sin seem attractive?

The Fact of Sin (2)

2God looks down from heaven on the children of man to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God.

“God Looks Down from Heaven”: Holy God, perfect & sinless, sitting upon His majestic throne looks down upon the earth. What does He see? A planet full of sinful men & women. All our sinful hearts & lives are open before Him.

The Witness of God: Do any seek after Him? When Paul quotes this verse in Romans 3.11 the answer is “no one understands…seek for God.”

The Fault of Sin (3)

3They have all fallen away; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.

“Fallen Away”: Is sin really that bad? YES! It is iniquity, unrighteousness, there is nothing good in it, it is evil. It is turning away from the right path, the path of life, to the path of death.

No One Does Good: Not only have we turned from God & corrupted ourselves, our interpersonal relationships are ruined because of sin. We do not do good to others.

The Folly of Sin (4)

4Have those who work evil no knowledge, who eat up my people as they eat bread, and do not call upon God?

“no knowledge…do not call upon God” is language indicative of those who never made time for God in their lives and their foolishness will ultimately find them out. Listen to the excuses people make when it comes to knowing God…

“I didn’t know you existed”: God has gone to great lengths to reveal Himself in the world & the Word – how will this sound to Him?

“I didn’t think you were important”: How insulting to God! What was more important? TV, fantasy football, Facebook, work?

“I didn’t have time for you”: Yet you had time for every other frivolous, meaningless thing; everything you believed was important, but wasn’t.

The Fruit of Sin (4b)

“…who eat up my people as they eat bread…”

Barbarity: these “eat up my people as they eat bread.” These devour the weak & the poor that they might become strong & rich. This is an apt description of the dog-eat-dog world that then was and still is.

Cruelty: when the deceitfulness of sin hardens men’s hearts we should expect to see even the family unit being destroyed. Just plain mean, acting  like junk yard dogs toward one another.

The Fear (and Shame) of Sin (5)

5There they are, in great terror, where there is no terror! For God scatters the bones of him who encamps against you; you put them to shame, for God has rejected them.

God their Enemy: Here is the main variation between this and Pslam 14. “great terror where there is no terror.” Their own consciences frighten them, their imaginations fill them with terror. There is a very real fear that cannot be erased: God is & God fights against them.

“God has rejected them”: They are right to fear because it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. “The wicked flees when no one pursues” because in reality God is hunting them!

The Faith of the Saints (6)

6Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When God restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.

The Present Evil World: Sin abounds here & has made men barbaric & cruel. Our experience is one where sin wins: the righteous are vilified & destroyed. It’s as common as men eating bread. (Romans 3.10-20; 21-25)

Look Upward: First, our Savior has come & delivered us from the bonds of sin. We are no longer corrupt & vile because of Jesus. Second, we wait in anticipation for when Christ comes back to set to right all that is wrong:

This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering— since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Thessalonians 1:5–12, ESV)

We are surrounded by sin & evil in this world. The world hates us but God has rejected them. When Jesus comes He will demonstrate that finally & fully. May we be found worthy when Jesus comes.

(Outline adapted from Matthew Henry)

The Marks of Mercy – Psalm 51

The superscription for this Psalm gives us the historical background: To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba” (Psalm 51:title, ESV). These events are recorded in 2 Samuel 11-12 when David lusted after & committed adultery with Bathsheba, covered up his sin by deceit & murder, and presumed he had committed the perfect crime with none the wiser. But God sent the prophet Nathan – “You are the man!” In contrition & repentance, David cried out to God in prayer which is recorded in this Psalm.  His spirit & heart is broken so he turns to the only One who can mend heart & soul. This Psalm shows how God is abundantly merciful on the penitent sinner. In the New Testament we read about God being “rich in mercy” (Ephesians 2.4). But how rich is He in mercy? Make no mistake, the riches of His mercy are on display in the Old Testament just as they are in the New. God demonstrates the riches of His mercy in David’s life in Psalm 51.

Note: Observe that David addresses his prayer to Elohim and not Yahweh, Jehovah. It is as if he feels absolutely unworthy of voicing the proper name of God and simply prostrates himself before the Make

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.

David immediately appeals to God for mercy, even before he mentions his sin. He begs/pleads for mercy as a brokenhearted sinner. This mercy comes from the “steadfast love” or “loving-kindness” of God. What a fitting word: loving-kindness. Wrapped up in it we see the certainly the love of God (that wonderful, matchless love) and the kindness/tenderness of God. And certainly it is steadfast.

By this mercy, God, “blot out my transgressions.” The first prayer is for mercy; this second is for the removal entirely of his offences from the book of God. Think India ink with a fountain pen – when you commit sin, the India ink bites into the pages of your life, mar it. Only the divine ink can blot it out, completely cover over that sin. This is according to the abundance of God’s mercy. Are you concerned about the abundance of your sins? Be advised that God has an abundance of mercy for the penitent sinner.

2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! 

Not like a man washing his body but as a person would wash a fouled, dirty garment. The stains are not removable by human ability and work; only divine detergent, only the blood of the unblemished can wash thoroughly the offender. Wash me, the penitent sinner from my iniquity, that thing which pollutes me.

Hebrew parallelism is used to repeat the request: Cleanse me from my sin. Transgressions, iniquity, sin – in other words, cover every form of moral impurity, every offensive stain that is evil. And truly David’s sins are multiplied: adultery, fornication, lies, murder, self-deception.

3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.

David, once self-deceived and refusing to acknowledge that he had done any wrong, fully acknowledges his wrongs. But truly he knew them for he committed them. They have been told him and he has been found out. I assume there is embarrassment, shame, guilt…as well there should be. Knowledge of sin will produce

But not only has David acknowledged his sins, but they are ever before him. On every face, over ever scene, in every place David looks he cannot escape his sin. It weighs on him and it is impossible to forget as long it oppresses the soul of man. Only God can remove this weight of guilt.

4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.

While there are other parties David has offended (Bathsheba, Uriah, Israel), there is none that is higher than God. Every sin is against God! And every sin is an open offense before God and all of heaven. Nothing escapes his sight and he recognizes the evil of sin.

Hence, the perfect God is found true and right in his words and judgments. The iniquity was indisputably committed; it is unquestionably foul and wrong; and God’s condemnation of that sin is just and without blame.

5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.

Not that any baby is born with sin; sin must be committed and a baby can no more commit sin than it could perform arithmetic. Rather, David, in the throes of contrition over his sin, overstates the case in his confession to God. There is no good thing in his life at this point and David’s whole life is painted the hue of sin.

6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.

Mark 1 of mercy: Honesty with self over what you have done; truthfulness (6). The preceding 5 verses have been bringing us to this first mark. A person who receives divine mercy must first be honest about their state before a holy God. Honesty concerning your sin will enable you to recognize your sin and admit it plainly to God (that’s confession). And this recognition of sin will produce the contrition we see in this Psalm, the broken-heartedness over sin, the sorrow for his iniquity, and will lead to repentance.

David is saying he is an adulterer, he stole another man’s wife, he had that man killed, he lied about it, covered it up, he deceived people about it. What do we need to be honest about in our life? What’s your secret sin that your hiding from everyone else. You may fool the whole world, but the eyes of God are on you.

7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Mark 2 of mercy: Request for forgiveness (7-8). Hyssop is from the mint family of plants and was used for cleansing a person from defilement from touching a corpse or from leprosy. And surely David is defiled. So he asks to be purged (purified, removed) from his sin. Only with the complete removal of sin can David be clean/pure. Again the request to be washed (see v.2).

But if we are going to ask for forgiveness, be sure we also receive that forgiveness. God wants to hear the pleading of our hearts as we confess wrong. But don’t continue carrying around what God has forgiven. Have faith God has forgiven (and he has, 1 John 1.9) and move on to service (Heb 9.14). God can, will, and does forgive the penitent sinner.

Satan will whisper doubts in our ear; he’s been since the beginning. “Has God really forgiven you?” We need to confident and stand on the word of God – “Yes He has!” Don’t put a question mark where God has put a period.

8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice.

Request forgiveness and receive it. God wants to hear the pleading of our hearts as we confess wrong. But don’t continue carrying around what God has forgiven. Have faith God has forgiven (and he has, 1 John 1.9) and move on to service (Heb 9.14). God can, will, and does forgive the penitent sinner. Rejoice in His forgiveness!

9 Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.

Mark 3 of mercy: Believe that God has forgotten as well as forgiven. And here is the difficulty for humans: that an omniscient God can forget sin. Nevertheless, Jeremiah 31.34b, Hebrews 8.12b. God can turn his face from our sins, blotting them out so as to never remember them. He no longer sees them. This harkens to the mercy seat (Exodus 25.17-22). The mercy seat was above the Ark of the Covenant and was the resting place of God. Every year on the Day of Atonement, the High Priest would enter the Most Holy Place and sprinkle blood on the mercy seat 7 times to make atonement for the people. The people drew near the mercy seat to receive mercy from the Lord.

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

Mark 4 of mercy: Allow God to work in you (v.10). See 2 Corinthians 5.17, God creates new motivation (heart) and desire (spirit). David is asking for restoration to the place he was before: a faithful and fruitful person. “Give me the fortitude to get on track and stay on track.”

11 Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.

Mark 5 of mercy: Believe in God’s presence (v.11). Does David have Saul in mind? Perhaps. But he has seen what it looks like to live without the presence of God and he does not want that. According to Ephesians 3.16-17, Christians have both the Spirit and Christ within them. Take heart that if you are forgiven, you are fit for His abiding presence.

12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

Mark 6 of mercy: Restoration of joy (v.12). He’s back with a song in his heart and smile on his lips. Does not mean he has forgotten, but he has joy. Like Paul: he never forgot where he came from (chief of sinners) but he had joy (Philippians 4.4).

13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.

Mark 7 of mercy: Proclamation of salvation (v.13). Go tell someone about the God who saved you, what he has done. Was sin bad? Yes, but once on track, headed in the right direction, now we can benefit others.

In order to fully experience the mercy of God, it may be helpful to ask several pointed question to see if you are fully back.

Is the anger, hurt, & resentment still in force? Is the guilt, shame, & disappointment still overwhelming?

Are we in prayer as much as before or even more? It is not embarrassment but sweet conversation.

Can I thank God for the lessons learned & the character gained from this experience?

Can I talk about the hurt without recalling all the stuff that devastates? Can I do that without being hurt? Can I help others?

Do I accept full responsibility for my sins? Or am I still trying to blame someone or something else?

Do I still love myself or am I punishing myself?

Am I imposing some kind of consequence or penance for what I have done? By the way, that is legalism.

So long as anger, lack of prayer, blaming, self-imposed punishment remains, we hinder the full experience of God’s mercy.

We need to trust that Jesus has forgiven fully. God shows this kind of mercy to those who are merciful (see Matthew 5.8). That is the final question: it is not a question of what sort of life you are living; it is not a question of if you have interest in the kingdom of God. It is simply “are you showing mercy?” That is the test from the beatitude from Jesus. For if you do not show mercy, how can you expect God to show mercy to you? Since God has been so merciful to you, how could not show mercy to others? “Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful” (Luke 6.36). Receive His mercy.