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 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.

The Best Known Psalm – Psalm 23

The superlatives concerning Psalm 23 are numerous: Spurgeon calls it “the pearl of Psalms.” Alexander Maclaren says we would be better off losing many of the big fat books written than we would losing this single Psalm. James Montgomery Boice calls it the most beloved psalm in the Psalter.

Not only is Psalm 23 the best known & most loved Psalm; it is perhaps the best known & most loved chapter in all of Scripture. Millions of people have memorized it even tho it may be the only text they’ve committed to memory. It has dried the eyes of many brokenhearted saints; it has shaped many hearts; it has brought many peace. It has spawned Christian urban legends like the one about the two men who recite this Psalm – one reading it with great elocution to applause, the other citing it from the heart leaving the crowd in tears. When asked the difference, the first man replied, “I know the Psalm; he knows the Shepherd.”

God is Shepherd of His people. What does it mean for YHWH to be my shepherd? Psalm 23 enables us to come to know the Shepherd.

YHWH My Shepherd (1a)

1The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

The Sovereign: YHWH, the “I AM.” He is the infinite God (timeless), the self-sufficient one, lacking nothing & needing nothing. So…the One who needs nothing comes near to help the need. He condescends to be the shepherd of His people.

The Shepherd: As in other ancient societies (e.g. Egypt, Gen 46.34), shepherds were considered the lowest folks in society who engaged in the lowest of all work. Typically, the youngest in the family got the unpleasant assignment (e.g. David). It was unending, thankless work of nourishing, binding, caring, etc. some of the dumbest animals on the planet. No one choose to be a shepherd…no one except YHWH. The cosmic sovereign Ruler of the universe stoops down to care for His people. It was despised work, yet it is divine work.

“I Shall Not Want” (1b-6)

Or I have everything I need or I don’t need a thing. Come what may, I will not lack, not b/c of my skills or ability, not b/c of my wit or wisdom, but b/c YHWH is my shepherd. I shall not want…

2He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.

Solace (2): Green pastures & still waters are pictures of peace. Laying down is a picture of rest. So with YHWH as my shepherd I have peaceful rest, solace. But for sheep to lie down, they need to be free from several things (see Keller, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, 23) – fear, friction, flies, famine. In similar fashion, for us to rest in God/Christ we must be free from fear (“perfect love drives out fear”), friction (interpersonal conflict, “be at peace with one another”), spiritual “flies” (such as guilt, doubt, shame, bitterness), & famine of the Word. God is the perfect provider of all these so that we might find solace in the Savior.

3He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Salvation (3a): “Restores my soul,” i.e. He saves my life. Keller (51-52) says the parallel is a “cast” sheep. How often do we end up on our back spiritually & yet the shepherd comes & stands us upright? For the purpose of walking in paths of righteousness.

A Standard (3b): He leads me in paths of righteousness. See Isa 53.6, left to our own desires, we end up on the wrong/crooked path. But with YHWH as our shepherd, He keeps us on the straight/right path. “For His Name’s sake” – i.e. to display His glory & grace; because He is good

4Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Security (4): “Valley of the shadow of death” see Keller 76-77:

It is customary to use this verse as a consolation to those who are passing through the dark valley of death. But even here, for the child of God, death is not an end but merely the door into a higher and more exalted life of intimate contact with Christ…The Good Shepherd knows this. It is one reason why He has told us, “Lo, I am with you alway” – yes, even in the valley of death.

But this also points to the shepherd’s ability to protect his sheep in times of danger. Fearless because He is with me. Note also, the valley is as much the right path as the green pastures & still waters. The rod & staff, one a weapon to fight off predators, the other designed to correct the sheep. Again Keller:

It was the rod of God’s Word that Christ, our Good Shepherd, used in His own encounter with the serpant – Satan – during His desert temptation. It is the same Word of God which we can count on again and again to counter the assaults and attacks of Satan (91-92).

5You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Supplies (5): A great feast is prepared with oil & wine (“cup”). Some see here a shift in imagery, but Keller sees continuation in the sheep imagery. First, the “table” are the high table lands, a mesa where the good food is. Second the oil would be used during summer time (“fly time”) to ward off bugs & infection. Third, wine would be used during the winter to ward off chill. Point: all year round God is there with exactly what His people need.

6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Sanctuary (6): Out of God’s mercy comes His goodness. Thru black days & bright days, goodness will supply our needs & mercy will blot out our sins. Dwelling in His house forever. A heavenly home certainly, but in the here & now we have a “household,” that is, we are part of His flock. Why would we leave? We have everything we need. “I shall not want.” He is the good Shepherd.

Tho this imagery of God our shepherd is in the Old Testament, as New Testament Christians we must never forget that the same imagery is applied to Christ.

Jesus My Shepherd

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly...I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,” (John 10:10, 14)

The Good Shepherd (Jn 10.11, 14): He promises self-sacrifice. He also promises to “know” us. That is, He is well acquainted with us. Jesus knows you & is always with you (Mt 28.20). So we can say, “You are with me.”

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant,” (Hebrews 13:20)

The Great Shepherd (Heb 13.20): He equips us to do His will. Notice what He equips us with – “everything good.” Isn’t that what we have seen in Psa 23- solace, salvation, a standard, security, supplies, sanctuary, & more!

And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” (1 Peter 5:4, ESV)

The Chief Shepherd (1 Pt 5.4): He will reward faithful under-shepherds with glory.

“The Lord is MY Shepherd,” but what happens when I am shepherd? Max Lucado helps us understand what that looks like:

I am my own shepherd. I am always in need.

I stumble from mall to mall and shrink to shrink, seeking relief but never finding it.

I creep through the valley of the shadow of death and fall apart.

I fear everything from pesticides to power lines, and I’m starting to act like my mother.

I go down to the weekly staff meeting and am surrounded by enemies. I go home, and even my goldfish scowls at me.

I anoint my headache with extra-strength Tylenol.

My Jack Daniels runneth over.

Surely misery and misfortune will follow me, and I will live in self-doubt for the rest of my lonely life.

Now – which of these would you rather have? God as your shepherd who richly provides you everything good so you say “I shall NOT want” or you as shepherd which only gives you headaches & heartbreak. Kind of a no brainer… Let HIM be YOUR Shepherd.

A Golden Psalm – Psalm 16

Psalm 16 begins with the inscription “A Miktam of David.” Depending upon who you ask, miktam indicates how to sing the psalm or means “a golden psalm” (also 56-60). Either way, this Psalm contains the golden truth of the resurrection. According to Peter (Acts 2.25) & Paul (Acts 13.35), this psalm is about the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

1 Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.

“Preserve me” – keep me, protect me, guard me, save me. As shepherd with his sheep, a figure David would have identified with immediately. Here he is as a sheep calling out to the Shepherd.

2I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”

Without God, all is lost. Notice – three (3) names for God used in the first 2 verses: El, YHWH, Adoni.

3As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.

“the saints…are the excellent ones”: though they have no excellence in themselves; any excellence comes from God. “In whom is all my delight” – David finds his place among the people of God. On a more profound level, since this Psalm looks forward to Christ, Christ delights in His people.

Many people love God; but do they love being with God’s people? Do they love coming to church? Even among Christians, do you delight in being with God’s people? David did; Christ does – the Savior delights in the saints.

4The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names on my lips.

Notice the contrast: with God & His people there is “delight;” but away from God with other gods is “sorrow.” Idolatry only breeds “sorrow,” woe, pain. “Run after” can mean wed. Those who “marry” other gods end up with a sorrowful marriage. “Drink offerings of blood” may allude to the sacrifice of Molech which required a child. David says he never sacrificed to another God.

5The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.

According to the Law (Num 18.20), the sons of Aaron (priesthood) and the tribe of Levi had no portion of the land. God tells them He is their portion. David says YHWH is his portion, He is more than enough. “My cup” which satisfies the thirst of the dry soul.

“You hold my lot” – “A minister may fill his pews…but what that minister is on his knees in secret before God Almighty, that he is and nothing more.” – John Owen.

6The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

As David scoped out Jerusalem and surveyed the surrounding territory, he saw the “beautiful inheritance” of land God had given His people. On a higher level, Christ (Eph 1.18), when He surveys His people, His bride, the church, He sees His “beautiful inheritance.” Indeed, we, because we know Christ, consider the various blessings we now enjoy and how those will give way to something even more profound someday, we have a “beautiful inheritance.”

7I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me.

Counsel from the YHWH blossoms & grows in our heart & mind. David would meditate upon God’s counsels even at midnight, being instructed by them.

“Wise men see more with their eyes shut by night that fools can see by day with their eyes open” (Spurgeon).

8I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

Perhaps at this point in his life the 1st part of this verse were true for David. “Always” had he set YHWH before him. However, you & I know the tragic episode in David’s life with Bathsheba where David set aside the Lord. But when you set the Lord always before you, He is close by and ready to save. While David is the type, Christ is the antitype. His is a life which never set aside the Lord, but truly kept Him ever before Him.

9Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.

“Therefore” since God is continually close…there is true joy & gladness that comes from the abiding presence of God. Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit (Lk 10.21). Brother Lawrence was a humble cook in a monastery, but his book on The Practice of the Presence of God is enlightening. “It isn’t necessary that we stay in church in order to remain in God’s presence. We can make our hearts personal chapels where we can enter anytime to talk to God privately. These conversations can be so loving and gentle, and anyone can have them” (37).

10For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.

“Sheol” is the unseen realm of disembodied souls (New Testament counterpart is Hades). When a person dies, they go here as a waiting place for final judgment. When David died, that’s where his soul went and his body saw decay. How much did David understand about what he is writing here? We know it speaks of resurrection (dead body coming back to life), but that was wholly unknown to David. It will be a century or two before the first resurrection takes place (by Elijah, 1 Kings 17). He had some inkling (v.11a)…

11You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

The path to eternal life realized in Christ. Christ lived that He might die. Christ died that He might live again forevermore. Christ lives to make us partakers of His life. “In His presence” is where Christ is with all His glory & full joy.

Several generations of God’s people sang, read, pondered, and prayed this psalm. The temple was built by David’s son and then razed to ashes; the Israelites went into captivity, taking this psalm with them. 70 years later, the Israelites returned to the land, carrying this psalm with them. Temples were built, desecrated, and rebuilt. Empires rose & fell. And then, after nearly 1,000 years, one summer morning, when the feast of Pentecost was in full swing, Jerusalem was full of cheer & gladness, the time arrived to put the key in the lock & unlock the full meaning of this psalm. The same Spirit that had inspired it, interpreted it through apostolic lips.

Kiss the Son – Psalm 2

Turmoil in the world tempts us to worry and wonder. Several of the Psalms are Messianic in significance. Psalm 2 is one such Psalm. Yet each Psalm had its own meaning when originally penned. This Psalm communicated to Israel that no matter how chaotic the world scene may be, their King is the Anointed of God. That David wrote this Psalm is unquestionable (Acts 4.25). Paul affirms this is the second Psalm (Acts 13.33). Author & location are established in NT.  This Psalm’s main emphasis is to highlight God’s sovereignty over man’s depravity. How is God sovereign over man’s depravity? Psalm 2 answers this.

Man’s Depravity (1-3)

1Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?

“Nations” are heathen nations, the Gentiles. “The peoples” are all mankind. They “rage” like the waves of the ocean. Why? B/c they are opposed to YHWH. It really is that simple. Since the beginning, man has rebelled against God’s way. Throughout history mankind has plotted in vain against God.

The Roman Empire plotted to vanquish Christianity from the earth…in vain.

19th century philosophers declared God is dead…in vain.

Militant Islam seeks to eliminate Christianity by killing the infidels…in vain.

Show me the burial place of Christianity. Show me where they buried God when He died. In fact, His tomb was found open, empty, with His grave clothes still there.

2The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,

Notice that man in rebellion 1) rages, 2) plots, 3) set themselves, 4) take counsel together, & 5) speak against God (YHWH) & His Anointed. “Anointed” in Hebrew is Messiah which translated into Greek became Christos from which we get Christ. Prophets (Isa 61.1), priests (Ex 30.30), and kings (1 Sam 16.13) were all anointed. So it is with Christ.

3“Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.”

In other words, “Let us be out own gods.” This has been the cry of man since Eden when Satan tempted Eve to “be like God, knowing good & evil” or “to play at God, defining good & evil.” The inclination of man’s fallen heart is to reject God’s rule, even hating His Christ. Man’s inclination is to play at God and we are surrounded by a society whose favorite pastime is to (re)define good & evil.

The Lord’s Derision (4-6)

What is God’s reaction to all the depravity & rejection from mankind?

4He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.

The Lord sits in heaven and His kingdom is over all (103.19) whether man likes it or not, whether man acknowledges it or not. In heaven, the Lord laughs. What’s so funny? God laughs these puny men to scorn and His scorn is for vengeance. He is a jealous God – jealous for His glory & the glory of His Anointed. So He mocks at man’s attempts to diminish Him or even erase Him, as though such a thing were possible. He ridicules man’s attempts to escape His cosmic sovereign rule.

5Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying,

Some have attempted to eliminate the wrath of God from their Bibles. Nevertheless, it is a Bible subject. God’s holy wrath is kindled against sin, esp. the sin of self-deification (making self God), which is what the nations are about. Be assured: The love of God has averted His wrath away from us in Christ.

6“As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.”

Consider what a mess this world is in and then remember what God says here. “God’s anointed is appointed & shall not be disappointed.” He rules from Zion regardless of how chaotic the world may be.

It’s as if God says to a rebellious mankind, “Ha! Rebel against me all you want. No matter what you do, what I’ve determined will come to pass will come to pass! Look! It’s as good as done. I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill”

A man once met Horace Greely, the famous newspaper editor, on the street and said, “Mr. Greely, I have stopped your paper.” “Have you?” Mr. Greely said, “that’s too bad,” and went on his way. The next morning, Mr. Greely met the man again, and said, “I thought you had stopped the Tribune?” “So I did,” was the reply. “Then there must be some mistake,” said Mr. Greely, “for I just came from the office and the presses were running, the clerks were as busy as ever, the compositors were hard at work, and the business was going on as yesterday and the day before.” “Oh,” said the man, “I didn’t mean I had stopped the entire newspaper. I meant that I had stopped my copy of it because I didn’t like your editorials.”

In the same way, individuals who rebel against God are like the man who proudly announced to Horace Greely that he had stopped his newspaper. They think that if they reject God’s rule in their life that they will stop God’s rule in the earth. But that’s not so. Whether a person rebels against God’s rule in his life or submits to God’s rule in his life, God is going to do what He has declared. God has declared that one day, despite mankind’s rebellion; Jesus Christ will reign upon the earth as King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

YHWH’s Decree (7-9)

7I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you.

This is the decree of YHWH; it is the purpose of God – for David and the kingdom of Israel (the antitype/shadow) and for Jesus & the eternal kingdom (the type/substance). Herein lay the gospel (Acts 13.33). Thru His resurrection, Jesus was declared, finally & fully, to be the Son of God.

8Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.

A common custom among ancient near east kings was to give those to whom they favored whatever they ask. Thus, YHWH is pictured as sovereign monarch even over David.

9You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

Those who refuse to bend the knee the King will break with an iron rod. The words “break” & “dash” denote strong force even tho it is merely a “potter’s vessel” which is struck. Once more the frailty of man is juxtaposed with the supreme power of God. Let’s just say you do not want to be found opposing or rebelling against God!

Man’s Devotion (10-12)

Given the unalterable, eternal purposes of God, what should man do?

10Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. 11Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.

If kings should take notice, how much more the subjects. God is supreme & the wise thing to do would be to take notice that God’s eternal purposes are fixed. It would be easier for a spider to move a mountain than for puny men to thwart God’s purposes or bring to nothing His Christ. Rather, men must “Serve YHWH…and rejoice…” Submission to & service in the kingdom is the wisest course men could take. Rejoicing under the rule of God is best. But all this is with “fear & trembling” (cf Phil 2.12-13) “Fear without joy, is torment; and joy, without holy fear, would be presumption.”

12Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

“Kiss the Son,” i.e. pay homage to Him. Replace hatred with homage. In modern vernacular, “Don’t be hatin’.” Hatred toward God will only serve to ignite the wrath of God. “The way” spoken of is the way of rebellion; that way only leads to rebellion.

The 1st Psalm taught us the character of the righteous; the 2nd Psalm teaches us the character of the Righteous One. Turmoil in the world tempts us to worry & wonder – Where’s God? This Psalm answers: “Reigning in His heaven.”

This Psalm ends with a beatitude & can be translated “Blessed are all those who trust in Him.” Honor the Son by trusting in Him.

Conclusion – Ephesians

“Better is the end of a thing than its beginning” (Ecclesiastes 7.8). Paul closes this epistle with a final farewell of blessing and benediction (6.21-24). The general language and lack of personal greetings would indicate that this epistle was intended as a circular letter, the target audience being not just those in Ephesus, but Christians throughout the Cayster River valley (see Introduction).

Blessing (21-22)

Paul is sending Tychicus to these saints to bless them with encouragement.

21So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you everything.

So that…what I am doing:  Both concerning his physical situation (in chains in Rome) as well as his spiritual condition (personally as he preaches under house arrest and also how the church in Rome is doing). These brethren want to know & Paul wants them to know how he is. (cf. Col 4.8)

Tychicus…tell you everything: Tychicus was an Christian from Asia Minor who accompanied Paul (along with Trophimus) on his journey to Jerusalem (Acts 20.4).  He was probably a native of Ephesus or Colossae. He no doubt acted as courier of this epistle as well as Colossians & Philemon. Paul calls him a beloved brother and faithful minister (Gk diakonos) in the Lord (key phrase). This loveable and faithful brother would make known all that these Christians wanted to know about Paul.

Would Paul say about us what he says about Tychicus – that we are not only beloved brothers or sisters, but that we are faithful ministers? We need to love one another and also be loveable ourselves. Every Christian is a minister, a servant unto the Lord (not just the preacher). We need to be found faithful in our service to our God. Like Tychicus…

  1. We need to be devoted to the service of Christ
  2. We need to co-labor with our brothers in Christ
  3. We need a disposition which seeks to encourage brethren

22I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage your hearts.

I have sent him…encourage your hearts: cf. Colossians 4.8. Paul purpose in sending Tychicus is the same as why he sent him to the Colossians: so that these Christians would know not just Paul’s well-being, but that of those with him (how we are) and that Tychicus might encourage or “comfort” (NASB) these brethren with how God has preserved Paul, even in chains.

Our lives are open books to one another. Paul was eager to share news of the wonder work of God in his life with these brethren knowing that this news would strengthen their hearts. Comforted, they themselves could pursue ministry bolstered in their faith.

We need more Tychicus’ today – those who heal the hearts of saints by the good word and encouragement they share. There are too many Christians who are sour faced curmudgeons, killjoys who believe their sole purpose is to point out how others are doing things “wrong,” and by wrong they mean they are not doing things the way they think it should be done. Tychicus was not a wet blanket saint, a Debbie Downer who only dragged people down. He called people up and built the brethren up. He sought opportunity to share a gracious word with God’s people. He told of the grace, love, and peace God brought to Paul and that imparted grace, love, and peace to His fellow brethren. Yes, we need more people like Tychicus in the church and fewer with Debbie Downer syndrome.

Benediction (23-24)

Paul offers a final prayer of peace, love, faith, and grace for these saints.

23Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Peace be to the brothers: This was the usual and common form of salutation of the time, especially among the Jews (Heb. Shalom).

Love with faith: Love is the fruit of faith, both of love to God and love toward one another. Where peace exists among brothers, love can flourish, stimulated by faith.

From God…Jesus Christ: The Father is the source of all these virtues and the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, is the mediator of our peace & love. Both are the objects of our faith.

As Paul has detailed (2.13-17), Christians have peace with God thanks to the blood of Christ and peace with one another due to the same means. Further, God shows us His faithful love by sending Christ into the world to die and into our lives to live. All these virtues come from God: we love because He first loved us; we know peace because He gives us peace; we have grace because He is gracious.

24Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.

Grace…Jesus Christ: Whereas verse 23 is a specific benediction (“to the brothers” of the local church), here it is more general aimed at all who love our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul seeks the grace which he has spoken so often of in this epistle to be with all Christ-loving Christians.

With [love] incorruptible: or “with undying love” (NET, NIV). Here is the kind of love every Christian should have toward Christ. This is a rare word used only a handful times in the New Testament and typically in association with the resurrection (Romans 2.7; 1 Corinthians 15.42; 2 timothy 1.10). Used here it speaks of the abiding, unfailing love for Christ that marks genuine Christians. It “is not a passing gleam, like the morning cloud and the early dew” (PC 261).

The riches of God’s grace is immeasurable (2.7). But if we have no love for the Lord, this grace eludes us. No wonder Paul says elsewhere “If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed” (1 Cor 16.22). When you are outside of the grace of God because your love for Christ has died there is only a curse! So it is no wonder Paul has prayed for these Christians to know the unknowable love of Christ (3.19); when we know His love then our love for Him can flourish and grow. There will be no decrease or decay in it.

Note: all four (4) of these virtues have been discussed throughout this epistle: Peace (1.2; 2.14, 15, 17; 4.3; 6.15), love (1.4, 15; 2.4; 3.176, 19; 4.2, 15, 16; 5.2, 25, 28, 33), faith (1.1, 15; 2.8; 3.12, 17; 4.5, 13; 6.16, 21), and grace (1.2, 6, 7; 2.5, 7, 8; 3.2, 7, 8; 4.7, 29).

Growing in Your Walk with Christ, part 6

“Anyone whose life is not holy will never see the Lord” (Hebrews 12.14, NCV). The apostle Paul was acutely aware of just how vital holiness is for Christians. Already in chapter 5 of Ephesians he has exhorted his readers to purity in their lifestyle (vs.1-7). Now, pulling on the rich heritage of light and darkness familiar to him through the Old Testament, Paul unpacks the need for a holy life, a separate walk from the world with Christ (v.8-14).

A Holy Walk (5.8-14)

As children of light, Christians walk separated from darkness.

8for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light

For at…darkness: Before Christ, they practiced these sins and were identified by darkness.

But now…the Lord: A sharp contrast is drawn from where they once were and where they are now. Now they are in the Lord which carries with it certain ethical charges and changes.

God is light (1 Jn 1.5). God dwells in unapproachable light (1 Tim 6.16). His truth is light (Psa 43.3). Light expresses His perfection & glory & majesty & truth. Darkness, on the other hand, is every in opposition to His perfection & glory & majesty & truth. It is in this darkness the world gropes and in which we once made our abode. But not anymore. In Christ, we are “children of light.”

Walk as children of light: Here is the obligation of those rescued out of darkness.  “The life lived as children of light is characterized by goodness, righteousness, truth, and whatever is pleasing to the Lord” (Patzia 258).

9(for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true),

For the fruit of [the] light: Fruit is “a figurative term for the moral results of the lights, its products as a whole” (Nicoll 356). The earliest manuscripts read the light making “the Spirit” (NKJV, KJV) a transcription error intended to harmonize this verse with Galatians 5.22.

Found…and true: This triad summarizes living in light. “All goodness” is a disposition inclined toward good works (cf. 2.10); “righteousness” is moral integrity by obedience to God’s word; “truth” is what corresponds to reality, esp. relating to God.

This could serve as a commentary of sorts for what Jesus says in Matthew 5.14-16. Letting our light shine so that others may see it means we pursue goodness (a disposition seeking to engage in good works), righteousness (moral integrity & rectitude), and truth (freedom from falsehood and embracing, loving, and speaking moral truth). Sometimes there is a yawning chasm between what we know how we live. My brethren, these things ought not be so!

10and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.

And try to discern…the Lord: To live (“walk,” v.8) as children of light means Christians will “find out” (NIV) what is acceptable to the Lord, He Himself being light. The present tense indicates that this is the lifelong, habitual practice of light-children. Keep discerning what pleases the Lord.

Like Yoda said, “No try. Do or do not.” To “discern” is “to ascertain by test and experiment. Our whole walk should be directed to finding out what things are pleasing to Christ, rejecting at once everything that is not so, and clinging to all that is…The supreme practical rule of the Christian’s life must be to please Christ” (PC 209). The way to discern what pleases Him is accurate & diligent study of His word. Further, through careful practice we can please our Lord. “Discern” & “pleasing/acceptable” are both found in Rom 12.2. This has led some scholars to see here (Eph 5.10) sacrificial language, i.e. our entire, every action is a sacrifice unto God as we are ever laid upon the altar.

Implied in this is that there is a lifestyle which is displeasing to God, i.e. a life lived in darkness, a life stubbornly refusing the light. Wickedness, unrighteousness, and falsehood would characterize that kind of life.

Pause for a moment and notice the progression of these verses:

  1. Transformation (v.8): We have been changed from darkness to light. Hence, we abandon immorality and pursue holiness; we put off ignorance and put on knowledge; we are no longer but now have joy.
  2. Obligation (v.8, 10): We are called to walk as children of light and live so as to discern what pleases God. Don’t go back to the darkness and engage what is not pleasing to God; walk farther into the day where God-pleasing activities are.
  3. Demonstration (v.9): We will demonstrate 1) divine beneficence/benevolence – doing good to all men; 2) divine righteousness – rendering to men what is theirs and to God what is His; 3) divine reality – the way things ought to be with God in control.

11Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.

Take no part…darkness: The works of darkness are barren, having no life in them. They only produce death (see Rom 6.21). The Christian is to “have no fellowship” (NKJV) with the evil so prevalent in the world. That is old self behavior; the new self accentuates light, especially…

Instead expose them: Expose here means to convict through words and actions. By living the life excellently Christians convict and even condemn the world (see Noah, Hebrews 11.7). By speaking the word engagingly we can convince them of the truth.

Christians must never be content with passivity toward darkness. We are light and must shine forth into darkness (Matt 5.14-16; Phil 2.15). Now when people’s darkness is exposed it is traumatic so expect a reaction (see John 3.19-21).

12For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret.

For it is shameful…in secret: Clarke says this is a reference to the mystery cults of Ephesus which we engaged in extreme levels of debauchery as recorded by Livy. However, it need not be limited to those cultic practices performed at night. It certainly could be the secret vices of engaged in the home. Either way, it is shameful for those who practice them to talk about, but Christians must speak out and shed light into the dark corners of culture & society. Paul has done that throughout these two chapters as he contrasted the old self with the new self.

The degradation & depravity of man knows no bounds today. We’ve got an entire internet full of corruption and foulness. Parades are held in celebration of debauchery. Sin has crawled out of the shadows of hiding and is now all over the TV & silver screen. It is still darkness; it just seems the darkness is advancing. Fast falls the night. And it is still shameful, disgraceful. Deep down inside those who practice know this is the case. Yet, they have seared their conscience, walled it off in an attempt to silence that still small voice which tells them, “This is not right.”

13But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible,

But when…the light: When Christians identify those evil, barren works of darkness to those who practice them, “people will come to see the true nature of evil and, it is hoped, turn to the light” (Patzia 261).

It becomes visible: Or they are seen for what they are, i.e. shameful, evil, darkness.

We, Christians, are enlightened (1.18; 5.8) and we are enlightening others. “Christians are to be God’s light in the midst of darkness” (Boice). We’re like Motel 6 – “We’ll leave the light on for the you.” Brethren, let us hold forth the light of the gospel in the midst of a “crooked and perverse generation.”

14for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

For anything…is light: Here is the transformative effect of the light of the gospel. Once enlightened, what was darkness is light (verse 8).

Therefore it says: or “He says” (KJV, NKJV). Either is an acceptable translation.

“Awake, O sleeper…on you”: Three metaphors for turning to God are linked in this statement: 1) Awakening from sleep; 2) Being raised from the dead; 3) Christ shining light into darkness. This may have been a song sung when a person was baptized (Patzia 262; see also Special Study).

Paul seems to present a three-fold progression from darkness to light:

  1. Exposure (v.11): Their sin(s) are revealed to them either through conversation with or conduct of Christians. They are found out.
  2. Disclosure (v.13): A crisis of judgment occurs – either they avoid the light (because they love evil) or they allow their deeds to be made manifest (John 3.19-21). But if they disclose their sins to God…
  3. Erasure (v.14): The light erases the darkness. They come to the serenity and tranquility of being So darkness is transformed into light by Christ (who is Himself the Light).

Special Study—What Is Paul Quoting in Ephesians 5.14?

Most scholars believe that Isaiah 60.1 is in view, though other Old Testament passages are cited as well (Isaiah 9.2; 26.19; 52.1). However, there is not an exact match with any OT text. So what is Paul quoting? Foulkes says, “The most likely explanation is that we have here another little fragment of an early Christian hymn” (155). Patzia goes further and says “it may have been used by the church at a baptismal service as part of a hymn that was recited or sung” (262). If it is a hymn, Isaiah 60.1 (et al) surely inspired it.