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.

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.

When You’ve Blown It Again – Psalm 32

The haunting, terrible reality for all Christians is that we fall short of the glory of God far too often. Once is too often, by the way. We do slip up, trip up, & fall short or miss the mark. As Christians we strive to be like Jesus, but we sin. 1 John 1.8, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” Notice that John includes himself. It is right to feel guilt over sin; in fact we ought to because when we don’t something is wrong. What do you do when you are in the throes of despair over sin? Psalm 32 offers light & hope in darkness & despair. God thoroughly forgives our iniquity, transgressions, & sins.

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). Psalms 42, 44, 45, 52-55, 74, 78, 88, 89, & 102 are also maskil Psalms. “Of David” means this was written by David and this fact is confirmed by Paul (Romans 4.6-8).

God Deals With Our Sin (1-4)

Like the Sermon on the Mount this Psalm begins with a beatitude. This is the beatitude of the forgiven lawbreaker.

1Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.

2Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

Sin Expiated [atoned for] (1-2): Three (3) words are used in the 1st two verse to describe sin: transgression, sin, iniquity. 1) Transgression: crossing a boundary, i.e. God’s law. 2) Sin: missing the mark, not doing what God has commanded or doing what God has commanded not be done. 3) Iniquity: internal defilement of the soul, moral distortion. All three of these God handles. With transgressions, He “forgives,” i.e. they are taken away like a burden. With sin, He “covers,” i.e. they are hidden from His sight. With iniquity, He does not “count” them, i.e. they never hit the record. But cleansing of all sin begins with genuine, real repentance, not pretended penitence (“no deceit”). Salvation from sin flows into a sincere heart before God.

3For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.

4For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah

Sin Experienced (3-4): Here is the soul crushing reality of sin. David “kept silent” about his sin. Why keep silent? Could have been out of pride (stubborn refusal to confess), neglect, despair (“How could God forgive me?”), guilt (don’t deserve? Exactly! That’s grace). But the longer he kept it in, his physical condition took a turn for the worse as he “wasted away” (weak, exhausted, aged). He groaned all day; so while he may have been silent over sin, he was groaning in sorrow. Verse 4: God’s hand is helpful when He reaches down to help us up, but it is heavy when it comes down upon us due to sin (cf. 38.2). If his finger can crush, what pressure must His hand bring? Further, the heat of divine justice has withered David, dried him up like a twig.  All of this shows us the awful experience of unconfesed sin.

God Hears Our Confession (5-7)

Confession brings joy!

5I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah

7You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah

Individual (5, 7): Verse 5: Here is true repentance in action. First, David takes ownership of his sin – “my sin…my transgressions…my iniquity.” Mine, all mine. My rebellion & self-will & perversion (cf. James 1.14-15). All this he “will confess” to God, that is, his intention & inclination is toward God. Notice: David can’t even get the words out and God already forgives! Like prodigal son (Lk 15). AND God not only forgives the sin, but “the iniquity of my sin” or “the guilt of my sin” (NIV). The very blackest part God blots out! God deals with the root of sin, the virus of moral depravity. He does not merely mow over the weed; he pulls it out at the root! God’s pardon is deep, thorough. Verse 7: It is no wonder David views God as his personal city of refuge, city to hide from the avenger of blood, preserved from death, with shouts & songs  because he is safe.

6Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found; surely in the rush of great waters, they shall not reach him.

Everyone (6): David says to God that everybody ought to do what I am doing. David wants everyone to experience the joy of salvation. This is the best deal around – total, full forgiveness of all sin & a new heart on top of it. This doesn’t make what we did right; it makes Him good.

God Instructs Our Hearts (8-11)

Some say this is David instructing others as he vowed to do (51.13). Others say this is God speaking & instructing us after reconciliation.

8I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.

9Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you.

God Guides the Godly (8-9): God guides us with spiritual & moral guidance. He reveals to us the way we should go thru His word. Further, He watches over us as we walk in His way. Verse 9: these beasts need a bit & are forced into service. Ours, tho, is a willing service. They are “without understanding,” but we are rational creatures rendering to our Maker what is rightfully His.

10Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord.

God Guards the Godly (10): Sorrows are guilt, shame, anxiety (over relationship with God), fear/terror, anger, bitterness. “The wicked” are acquainted with these. “He who sows sin will reap sorrow in heavy sheaves” (Spurgeon). “Every wicked man is a miserable man” (Clarke). However, those whose faith is in YHWH are surrounded by His unfailing love. Morning & evening, in company & alone, in sickness & health, in life & in death – everywhere & always.

11Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!

God Gladdens the Godly (11): Joy accompanies forgiveness. So holiness & joy are welded together.  Note that only “in the YHWH” can we experience joy for only YHWH can atone for & absolve us of sin thereby making us “righteous” & “upright in heart.”

I believe many Christians need this reminder of reassurance of remission of sin. Guilt is crippling & hinders us from fulfilling the purposes of God in our generation. But God has dealt with our sin & continues to deal with our sins. We are forgiven to the uttermost, and God calls us to live with & for Him.

Prayer: For the forgiveness of our sins, the blotting out of our transgressions, and the remission of our iniquity, even the iniquity of our sin, we praise thee, O Lord.

The Soundtrack of the Cross – Psalm 22

Young couples sometimes pick out a popular song as theirs. When the song comes on the radio, she may say, “They are playing our song.”

A common question asked these days when powerful people are interviewed: “What’s on your iPod?” What do you listen to when your in the gym, in the car, at home, in the office? What is the soundtrack of your life?

No one ever asks: What would be the soundtrack of your death?

Have you ever wondered: What song was playing when Jesus died?

For many of the Psalms of David it is possible to connect them with certain events in David’s life. However, the 22nd has no life event from David in view because it is a description of an execution, specifically a crucifixion. “Being therefore a prophet…” David spoke concerning Messiah’s execution on a cross (Acts 2.30). Over 300 years before crucifixion is invented as a mode of death, David pictures it here. The gospels record the facts; the Psalms the feelings of the cross. Psalm 22 captures the agony & glory of the cross of Christ.

This Psalm is typically divided into two (2) sections: suffering (1-21a) & salvation (21b-31), with verse 21 acting as the turning point of the Psalm.

A Gruesome Crucifixion – the Humiliation of Christ (1-21)

Alienated from His Father (1-5): During His life & ministry, Jesus had never known a moment without the Father’s presence; uninterrupted fellowship. But on the cross when He who knew no sin the Father made to be sin for our sake (2 Corinthians 5.21), that changed. How lonely Calvary was for Christ!

1My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?

“Eloi, Eloi” – the double name denotes close, personal relationship. “Why?” There was a reason for the agony of the cross; there is a reason for suffering.

2O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.

It seems prayers go unanswered, even unheard. Keep praying!

3Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.

The Psalmist is comforted by the holiness of God.

4In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them.

Abraham, Isaac, Jacob repeatedly trusted God & He never failed them.

5To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

“How you gonna do me like that, God?” These guys were heard; how about me?

Abused by His Foes (6-8, 12-18): From His youth, from His birth, from before His birth, the cross loomed & cast a dark shadow over the life of Christ. A millennium before God became flesh, David pictured the event. So graphic are David’s descriptions that it almost seems as tho he were present for the very crucifixion. Put down (6-7), scorned, despised, mocked; Poured out (14-15); pierced (16).

6But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people.

Here is the “I AM” saying “I am a worm.” Surely He thought this & perhaps it was uttered tho unrecorded in the gospels. Certainly Christ was hated & hounded.

7All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;

8“He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”

See Matthew 27.41-43; Mark 15.29 for the fulfillment of these verses. How would you feel if in your darkest hour someone said this to you? Amplify it by infinity & you are coming close to how Christ felt.

12Many bulls encompass me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me;

Circling bulls, ready to charge & gore with their horns. Bashan was known for its fine cattle; here is pictured the raving, raging mob led by the leaders.

13they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion.

14I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast;

His heart is “melted” under the heat of divine wrath; & if Christ’s heart melts under the full force of divine wrath, what about ours if we reject Christ!

15my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.

He is all dried up under the blistering heat of divine justice. Every drop of fluid is gone. Intense thirst.

16For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet—

“Dogs” would be, prophetically, gentile Roman soldiers. Here crucifixion is described over 300 years before the first poor attempts at it are hinted & nearly 700 yrs before it is perfected & popularized by Alexander the Great.

Answered by His Father (9-11, 19-21)

9Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.

10On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.

11Be not far from me, for trouble is near, and there is none to help.

“God, I need you here. Stay close” (11, 19). A present God is a present blessing!

19But you, O Lord, do not be far off! O you my help, come quickly to my aid!

20Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog!

21Save me from the mouth of the lion! You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!

Part prayer; part praise. “Save me! You heard/answered/rescued.” “It was the will of YHWH to crush Him…He shall prolong His days” (Isaiah 53.10).

A Glorious Coronation – The Exaltation of Christ (22-31)

All at once the tone shifts. From the darkness of Calvary comes joy…

Joy in Israel (22-25): “Praise Him.” “I will [proclaim]…I will praise…I will perform…” Future tense. How can He do this if He’s dead? Resurrection! Perhaps these words of the song comforted Jesus on the cross as He hung dying; He whispers them thru parched lips.

23You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!

Note the three-fold duty – praise Him, glorify Him, revere Him.

Great Spiritual Feast (26-29): Rich & poor (26, 29) from all over the earth (27) gather to feast and be satisfied by what YHWH has provided thru the Christ. Israel was to be a light to the nations (Isa 45.22; 49.6); in Christ this is fully realized.

27All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you.

Herein is universal evangelism pictured – “all the ends of the earth…all the families of the nations…” Not merely Jew but Gentile shall prosper because of Christ’s crucifixion & resurrection. “Remember” is reflection on sin; “Turn” & “worship” are repentance & holiness.

Future Grace (30-31): For “Coming generation” – 71.18; 78.6; 102.18; do you get the feeling that God cares about the next generation, i.e. the kids. May I just say to those of you who work in the education department of the local congregation that you are engaged in the glorious work of dispensing grace to the next generation.

30Posterity shall serve him; it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;

31they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it.

Here also are the future prospects of the church: “They shall come” – converts are certain. “They shall…proclaim His righteousness” – those converted will join us in the work of evangelism. “To a people yet unborn” – future generations will be blessed. Christ will be exalted in all this! “He has done it” or “It is finished.” “The Lord” (adoni) has accomplished the work of redemption. This is the last word of Christ on the cross. It is the heart of the gospel we proclaim.

Per crucem ad lucem – thru the cross into the light. Without the darkness of the cross there cannot be the light of glory. Maybe the tune started like Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata before ending like Vivaldi’s Spring.

“It is finished” so respond to God’s grace.

God Still Speaks – Psalm 19

A college philosophy professor asked one question on his final exam. He picked up a chair, put it on his desk, and wrote on the board, “Using everything we have learned this semester, prove that this chair does not exist.” Philosophy classes get into that kind of thing.

The students opened their notebooks and wrote as much as they could think of for a while hour, some of them churning out 30 pages of heady philosophical debate and logic. But one student turned in his paper after less than a minute and he was the only one to get an “A.” What did he write so quickly that turned out to be just the right answer? He wrote: “What chair?”

In the beginning, Satan used a single question to get Adam & Eve to doubt whether God can be trusted. Satan wants to get people to the point where they not only don’t trust God… but that God doesn’t even exist. He wants to get people to the point where they ask: What God?

Enter Psalm 19. The Psalm tells us that above the questions Satan poses, there is a better word which is spoken announcing that there is a God, He has spoken, and He continues to speak. The question we must ask is not “What God?” but “Are we listening?” If we will listen to the silent witness of the world & the spoken witness of the Word these will evoke a spiritual response in us, namely, worship

God’s still speaking; are we listening? The world & the Word combine to invoke worship from us.

The Works of God (1-6) – General Revelation

The Glory of the Sovereign (1-4a)

 

1The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

When we speak of glory of God, we are talking about “the sum of His perfection” or His character. So all of creation is “celebrating” the character of God. The sky “announces” His handiwork, or they are saying, “Hey, guess who made us!”

2Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.

Everyday “gushes” speech & every night is revealing knowledge about where everything came from. So there is an abundant, continuous revelation from creation testifying to a Creator.

3There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard.

So here is the interesting thing: there’s no words being used. Creation is a silent witness to the Creator. It is divine sign language and everyone sees the pictorial message & therefore should draw certain conclusions, esp. there is a God.

4Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. 

Though there are no words, the “voice” of creation is universal going to “all the earth…the end of the world.”

The Glory of the Sun (4b-6)

David uses the sun as a specific example of God’s glory on display, the crowning achievement of God’s creative power.

In them he has set a tent for the sun,

The “tent” for the sun may be night; the sun retreats there each night.

5which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.

What is pictured here is youthful vigor, energy, strength.

6Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

Though their knowledge about what the sun is was limited, they knew enough to give proper praise to the God who made the sun. Much more should we praise God!

The Word of God (7-11) – Special Revelation

Like the sun from which “nothing is hidden from its heat,” so the Word is likewise inescapable, “no creature is hidden from His sight” (Heb 4.13). The Psalmist gives 6 titles for the word; 6 qualities of the word; 6 effects from the word.

The Law of YHWH (7a): 7The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul;

The doctrine of God, the great body of truth used to instruct God’s people. The Law is “perfect” as a whole, lacking nothing & needing nothing. “It is a crime to add to it, treason to alter it, and felony to take from it” (Spurgeon). The law “revives the soul” or “converts the soul.” It brings back the spirit from death to life & is able to raise up children for Abraham from even the most hard of hearts.

The Testimony of YHWH (7b): the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;

Divine declaration of right & wrong, truth & error, sin & righteousness. God’s testimony is “sure,” that is, it is a firm foundation & permanent. “All other ground is sinking sand” but God’s word is terra firma. It makes the simple wise, enlightens their moral judgments.

The Precepts of YHWH (8a): 8the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;

Or statutes which indicate a specific duty. The precepts are “right” or straight & smooth path thru a dark woods. The heart rejoices in knowing that remaining on such a path will ensure it safe travel. Notice: the converted soul becomes wise and finds joy (progression).

The Commandment of YHWH (8b): the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;

Rules to regulate the entire life. The command is “pure” and produces & promotes purity of life. How? By causing the light to shine upon darkened eyes (cf Eph 1.18). Sin & sorrow are driven away by the pure light of God’s word.

The Fear of YHWH (9a): 9the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;

Reverence and respect produced by the word; awe & piety. The fear of God is “clean,” both ceremonially & ethically, for this reverence for God drives away the love of sin. “Endures forever” with God’s word is something greater than Pilate’s decree, “What I have written, I have written” (John 19.22). Or as Jesus, “Heaven & earth will pass away, but my Word will no not never pass away” (Matthew 24.35; Mark 13.31; Luke 21.33). Wise men still fear God.

The Rules of YHWH (9b): the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.

His just decrees or “rules” against sin & in favor of righteousness; the right settings. These are “true,” not only in the sense that they contain no falsehood, but also that they are trustworthy & faithful words. So God’s judgments are just, in history or pertaining to sin. His justice is always above reproach to the enlightened mind.

Reward for Desiring God’s Word (10-11)

10More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.

11Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

cf. 119.72, 127. Greater than gold & sweeter than honey – that’s God’s Word! Better than profits & pleasure. Do we always desire God’s word like this, though? Consider Jerome, 5th century theologian who more readily desired the philosophers’ writings to the prophets’ writings:

Many years ago, when for the kingdom of heaven’s sake I had cut myself off from home, parents, sister, relations, and—harder still—from the dainty food to which I had been accustomed; and when I was on my way to Jerusalem to wage my warfare, I still could not bring myself to forego the library which I had formed for myself at Rome with great care and toil. And so, miserable man that I was, I would fast only that I might afterwards read Cicero. After many nights spent in vigil, after floods of tears called from my inmost heart, after the recollection of my past sins, I would once more take up Plautus. And when at times I returned to my right mind, and began to read the prophets, their style seemed rude and repellent. I failed to see the light with my blinded eyes; but I attributed the fault not to them, but to the sun. (Letter XXII – To Eustochium; see Nicene & Post-Nicene Fathers, 2nd series, vol 6. Pg.35)

How often do we desire to watch the latest TV show or sports match more than Scripture? But “there is great reward” in keeping or observing the Word. But to keep it we must know it; and to know it we must read it; and to read we must deny ourselves the various activities & things which would steal our attention away from the word. “Great reward” when? Someday, sure, in heaven. But today also & absolutely as we live life with God.

Our Worship to God (12-14) – The Revelation of Our Hearts

One cannot think about the Law without being reminded of disobedience to the Law. This led David to intense prayer to YHWH, his Rock & Redeemer.

Cleanse Me (12)

12Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults.

“Declare me innocent” is the language of forgiveness. “Hidden faults” are either 1) Sins practiced in secret or 2) Sins we commit which are secret even to ourselves. Both are grievous, but surely the former is most grievous. One of the saddest sights is when a long-time brother or sister or even a minister is found out to be engrossed in secret sin. Those kinds of incidents cause grief & astonishment. Which sheds light on the first clause: “Who can understand error?” Who can unravel the deceitfulness of sin? However, the latter category – sins God sees in us which we fail to see in ourselves – which David has in mind. No doubt we fail to love as we ought, being humble, judging to harshly, hastily, &/or ignorantly; we perform some duty while neglecting another more urgent tho uninteresting one; we fail to forgive as God forgave us. The list goes on and we know these are sins in need of God’s forgiveness because we feel guilty when they are pointed out. What a multitude of sins are hidden faults, hidden from our memory & imperfectly enlightened conscience! With David let us plead with God, forgive, cleanse, declare me innocent!

Correct Me (13)

13Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.

“Keep back your servant” thru the word. “Presumptuous sin” is also called sinning with a “high hand.” It is arrogant, self-willed sin. So grievous is this kind of sin that there was no atonement for it (cf. Numbers 15.30-31; Deuteronomy 17.12). This kind of evil was purged from the land. No wonder David prayed to be kept from this. And so also should we.

Commend Me (14)

14Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Let my words & thoughts be acceptable. David wanted what he thought & said to be pleasing to God. Here is a sweet prayer which every Christian ought to take up. Before words leave our mouth, we ought to meditate about it. In other words, think before you speak lest you say something which is unacceptable to God.

“Let the door of my lips by kept, that I utter no evil word, and the recesses of my heart be purged, that I think no evil thought” (Pulpit Commentary 130).

Natural theology (world), revelation (Word), spiritual experience (worship) – this is the successive course of this psalm. “He is wisest who reads both the world-book and the Word-book as two volumes of the same work, and feels concerning them, ‘My Father wrote them both.’” (Spurgeon) God still speaks – through the world He tells us He exists; thru His word He tells us He loves us; and in our worship we tell Him we love Him.

When You Blow It – Psalm 6

Psalm 6 is the first of what are known as the penitentials (32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143); these are Psalms of great lamentation over sin. This one is probably not as well-known as the others (32, esp. 51), but it communicates feelings I believe we can all identify with: the feeling of failing God. What do we do when we have failed God, sinned? This Psalm tells us there is hope when we bow it spiritually. Psalm 6 provides hope for when we’ve blown it morally. Two things to mention initially: 1) though the sin is not mentioned, the conscience is clearly stricken; and 2) though the sin is unnamed, the Lord knows what it is.

Psalm 6 (ESV)

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments; according to The Sheminith. A Psalm of David.

1O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath.

2Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing; heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled.

3My soul also is greatly troubled. But you, O Lord—how long?

4Turn, O Lord, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love.

5For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who will give you praise?

6I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping.

7My eye wastes away because of grief; it grows weak because of all my foes.

8Depart from me, all you workers of evil, for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping.

9The Lord has heard my plea; the Lord accepts my prayer.

10All my enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled; they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment.

When You’ve Blown It

A Lurking Sense of God’s Displeasure (1-3): The Psalmist speaks of “Your anger…Your wrath” (v.1). The wrath of God over sin is very real. Sin is no small matter, lightly overlooked. The true gravity of sin is seen in what it cost God to redeem us from sin: His unique Son, Jesus.

A Lost Sense of God’s Presence (4-5): “Turn” or “return” says come back. Why? Implication is the Psalmist feels as tho God has departed due to sin. But the return of YHWH will mean salvation & deliverance. So yes – come back! Don’t stay away forever! Restore me that I may praise you.

A Lacking Sense of God’s Peace (6-7): Notice the Psalmist is up all night, every night mourning his sin (every night I flood my bed with tears). Sleep eludes the conscience stricken person. Indeed, his whole being – mind, body, soul – is in distress. There is no rest, no peace, even if you are a king like David was. Have you ever experienced this kind of spiritual & bodily fatigue – unable to get out of bed, too tired to go to work, too worn out to clean the house, maybe even too depressed to go to church, read the Bible, even pray? I know some have. Perhaps the only thing you can pray is v.3 – How long, O Lord?

A Longing for God’s Deliverance (8-10): How long until I am delivered from this? From my enemies (all you workers of evil), esp. the spiritual forces of darkness which are probably at the source of many of our troubles. You want it so desperately. You plead & pray for God to deliver.

What Do We Do When We’ve Sinned

Feel the Guilt (1-3): Godly grief produces repentance unto salvation (2 Cor 7.10). We ought to feel guilty when we sin. If we do not, we’re in trouble. Lack of guilt is indicative of a seared conscience. 1) The Psalmist feels the guilt & knows he deserves rebuke just “not in Your anger,” discipline but “not in Your wrath” (v.1). 2) The Psalmist is “languishing,” that is, he is withered like a plant or flower; lit. he is one who droops (v.2). 3) The Psalmist seems absolutely worn out by his grief; so weary in fact, that he can’t finish the sentence. “How long?” he asks without specifying for what. See Habakkuk 1.2; given v.9, this makes sense.

Pro Top Tip: When someone comes forward following a sermon I am very mindful to not minimize the action of one by lumping it in with the masses. Saying things like “We all have…” minimizes their repentance when instead, they need to feel the weight & gravity of this.

Pray to God (4-7): “Save me,” cries the Psalmist to God. Also, notice how often God is mentioned in these opening verses – my count is five (5) times in four (4) verses. He is the only and best hope we have for these dark nights of the soul: YHWH. He is the hope of the David & He is our hope as well. This is the turning point – when David, by habit, training, or sheer desperation, hurls himself to God and calls upon God.

Repent (8): Verse 8 is the turning-point of this Psalm. The grief & guilt should lead to true repentance. “Depart from me, all you workers of evil” – this is the language of practical repentance. You sweep out the wicked, purge yourself of the impure so that you are holy unto the Lord. The change of mood continues into the next verses. Why? God has heard my prayer!

Know God Hears (9-10): Though you sin, you are still a child of God. Unless you up & leave home,  live in open, willful rebellion…that’s a different story. But when a child of God fails the Father, know you still have the Father’s ear. When Simon (the Magician), a child of God, fails the Father thinking to buy the miraculous demonstration of the Holy Spirit with money, what does Peter tell him to do? Acts 8.22, though he has sinned, he still has the Father’s ear. Back in Psalm 6, notice the three-fold assertion – “YHWH has heard…YHWHW has heard…YHWH has accepted…” this denotes absolute conviction. No doubt about it.

When Others Blow It

Be Gracious (2): Even as we desire for God to be gracious us so we ought to be people who show grace to one another. Remind them of the hope we have in Christ Jesus. Pray with & for them.

Mourn (6-7): We should agonize over sin in our brothers & sisters. Especially if they persist in their sin. “Cemeteries are quiet places where damp earth covers dumb mouths” (Spurgeon). Now is the time to remember God.

Remember God’s There (8-10): God is not lost, those who rebel against Him & reject Him are. God was always there, even when we’ve blown it. He’s still there for our brothers & sisters who choose to walk away from the Father.

When you sin, you should feel guilty, but do not therefore feel lost. In the dark night of the soul, when we have failed to live up to the high, holy standard, call upon God. Request light. God is our light & pathway through the darkness.